NYCHA Plans to Privatize Management of Its Complexes; Tenants and Borough President Gale Brewer Demand Protections

The Frederick Douglass Houses. Photo by Scott Matthews.

By Michael McDowell

Big changes are on the horizon for New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents — many of whom live on the Upper West Side, in developments like Wise Towers in the West 90s, and the Frederick Douglass Houses between West 100th and 104th Streets. NYCHA plans to shift management of its complexes to private developers via the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) and Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) programs; as NYCHA’s plans come into focus, residents and elected officials feel serious questions remain unanswered.

RAD and PACT are U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) efforts to preserve public housing; in both programs, public housing tenants are converted to voucher-based Section 8 or Section 18 rental housing assistance programs.

The structure of the conversion process, which is extremely complex, offers the promise of access to capital for long overdue maintenance and repair, as well as financial relief for housing authorities.

RAD and PACT are set to impact as many as 62,000 units citywide, and the programs were the talk of a sparsely attended hearing at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on Wednesday, at which the NYCHA Board heard public comment.

Attendees, the majority of whom were NYCHA residents, expressed anger, fear, outrage, and frustration over their lack of inclusion in the planning process. Many residents believe the authorization of RAD and PACT are the first step toward their eventual removal.

Elected officials appear to share these concerns.

“NYCHA must codify language on tenant rights and permanent affordability into Section 18 projects’ legal documents, such as a regulatory agreement or a document tied to the property that does not have an expiration date,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, whose in-person testimony quieted the auditorium.

Gale Brewer at the hearing. Photo by Michael McDowell.

Following the expiration of a several decades-long contract, renewal and affordability are not guaranteed under Section 18.

Brewer emphasized the need for transparency and communication.

“NYCHA must do a better job communicating with its residents. Those who are going to be impacted by PACT—particularly if it’s under Section 18 with less protection—should not have to find out what’s going on from elected officials or advocates,” Brewer added. However, she is “cautiously supportive of RAD” due to the guaranteed affordability protections built into Section 8.

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who represents much of the Upper West Side, did not appear in person, but a representative read her statement.

“NYCHA, as a start, must create a fact sheet for residents that clearly outlines the conversation process…NYCHA residents have rights and are entitled to being engaged in a collaborative and transparent process that respects their rights as residents in their homes,” she said.

Aside from the many Upper West Siders who reside in NYCHA buildings, readers may be unaware that Goddard Riverside’s Bernie Wohl Center is housed within NYCHA. The center primarily provides after school programming for children, but also hosts art exhibitions and the occasional string quartet.

In her testimony, Brewer demanded established nonprofits have a seat at the table and the opportunity to participate in the bidding process for these projects.

“I want to be very clear, I, Gale Brewer, will not support any project that isn’t going to be done through a nonprofit community development corporation, period…I feel very, very strongly about this.”

According to Brewer’s testimony, NYCHA has stipulated that PACT bidders in Manhattan must have completed a project of at least $75 million and must manage at least 1,700 units of affordable housing. In Brooklyn, the requirement is $300 million and 2,600 units under management. Such steep requirements erect a significant barrier to any nonprofits, such as Goddard, who may have otherwise sought to participate.

“I urge NYCHA to revise its RFP [request for proposal] criteria by bidding out smaller, more neighborhood-based clusters and requiring for-profit applicants to partner with CDCs,” Brewer added.

A NYCHA spokeswoman said the agency has made a genuine effort to involve residents who live in developments slated for conversion via RAD or PACT in the planning process. Namely, residents have been included in what has been an “exceptionally open and communicative process,” she said. “Our staff goes door to door multiple times for every unit that is being converted. We are not surprising any residents with conversion.”

Additionally, “tenant rights are codified–all residents receive the same protections and guarantees, whether they are RAD, Section 18, or Unfunded conversions,” she added, and linked to NYCHA materials describing the RAD and PACT programs in greater detail.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 32 comments | permalink
    1. Antonia says:

      Please make nycha private, Pelham parkway houses in the bronx

    2. Javiel Sepulveda says:

      Why not just sue the City, State and Federal Government, to pay thier fare, overdue share. No municipality is allowed to let NYCHA go broke and out of business. This is the great lie !!!! They must provide funding. This scare tactic is being used to defraud the tenants to thier legal rights as leases of the properties.

      The government is looking to pass down this hot potato and remove all ownership and therefore all liability for the properties ultimate demise.

      What is the difference between the ultimate decay of the properties, or the ultimate selling off and loss of the property to private interest. Either way, the tenants forgo their rights to fight and end up losers without a clue. Let’s sue the Government at all levels and hold them to thier promise and hold on to our apartments and our dignity.

    3. Genora says:

      I agree, NYCHA must do a better job of communicating with residents. A start would be to get someone to monitor, the resident associations with single minded leaders, to include their board members, in what they are actually doing. Making sure they collaborate and engage members. A lot of resident leaders like showcasing on TV. I happen to live on the Upper West Side. And resident association meetings have a hand full of members attend. Most residents have no clue of actually what is going on.

      • Frank says:

        Please they just as bad as the tenant they don’t give a flying Shazam about any darn thing . get rid of them to tenant association any association conflicted with New York City housing authority.

    4. davidaron says:

      Disallowing non-profits like Goddard Riverside a seat at the table, while privatizing management at NYCHA, signifies hammering the final nail in the coffin of the WSUR Plan for the West 90s, started in the early 1960s to ensure affordable and public housing for middle and working class residents of our neighborhood.

    5. Our politicians promised the residents that nothing will happen to NYCHA when they were running for office and they kept their promise. The surrounding community, a stake holder should have a seat at the table. It has had to put up with the problems of this urban renewal disaster area for many years.

      The only way that this can be resolved is by applying resolutions outside the NYCHA box. NYCHA properties on the UWS have been kept out of zoning and planning discussions. Building heights are unlimited. There are no commercial overlays making this a retail dead zone.

      NYCHA cannot sustain itself financially from collecting residential rents alone. The city doesn’t collect real estate taxes from these properties but is expected to pay for services and infrastructure. Everything has to be subsidized and money added from grants like participatory budgeting.

      NYCHA cannot and will not be fixed without the surrounding community involved in the decisions.

    6. Juhana says:

      I am a Nycha tenant and i really appreciate NYCHA because i had been doing things on my own until i fell sick and went out of finances and was blessed to be given a place for me and my kids.i think NYCHA residents should also take responsibility too by learning to appreciate what they have and take good care of it.We can never move forward if we don’t appreciate and cherish what we have.pray that all work out for everyone good.

    7. Stella pinedo says:

      Please do the projects here in East Harlem in carver private it would be the best I’m with it

    8. Caring citizen former resident. says:

      First of all Housing communicates with the residents but could just use some improvements. Second residents do destroy housing properties and not being held ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS. But!!that’s always being OVERLOOKED. Residents are not Always right. Nycha needs to check that. Leave maintenance alone! There are those who do their jobs!!.everyone stabbing each other in the back just to keep their jobs.those who are in authority need to just do what’s right, stop trying to fire those who are working.people wanna see what they want to see.and don’t want to see what they should. Stop hiding in your offices.

      • Frank says:

        Amen amen amen they act like they don’t hear or see and they know everything that is going on in these places

    9. Jackson says:

      Need the right people in nycha. Who will do the right thing.

    10. Lillie says:

      What about the other NYCHA housing complex will they be offer a program as well

    11. MNUNEZ says:

      I am very
      worried. Twelve years ago I didn’t qualify for section 8.
      I work but can’t afford the rents in the private sector. I don’t have family or anywhere to go. If I can’t pay my rent i will be another homeless person in the street.

    12. Pancho Valdez says:

      Public housing tenants rights maybe in writing, but unless they organize and DEMAND their rights, the housing authority will ignore them.
      We maybe poor and most of us aren’t well educated, but we aren’t stupid!

    13. Loray Hodge says:

      What About Frederick Samuel Houses Development In Central Harlem ?

    14. NY says:

      Borough President should call the wedding planner Lynn Patton on her bs and demand federal funding.


      As a current Resident Association Executive Board Member of the next NYCHA development having our first PACT meeting tomorrow night @ Bellevue Hospital @ 6:30 pm, I agree 100% with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. The only information that the Board was given to us from PACT was given to us in bits and pieces from elected officials, not PACT. We are being rushed with quick deadlines and no legal representation. I am grateful that Gale Brewer is one of the few elected officials that is the TRUE VOICE of the people.

    16. Carol Robinson says:

      As a NYCHA resident for over30 years I am feeling concerns for my safety in my apartment I have raised 5 children in nycha all are on their own I am approaching 60 years old and I’m worried about what’s gonna happen to me have worked for the past 30 years I have always paid my rent on time however I’m not making a lot of money yet my rent continues to increase will I be able to afford the new rents, if not will I be out on the street I pay for medical as well as medications monthly as I am diabetic does these expenses come into play when rent is calculated I am worried.

    17. I believe it when I see it where housing authority I live in Paterson projects at 3rd Avenue in a 143rd At/m we been without a bullet for 7 years the condition of these appointments are horrible then not upgraded they still living in the forties fifties and sixties and seventies nothing has change we still living backwards instead of going forwards housing authority makes 32 million dollars a month and still we are in the stone age the conditions are horrible no hot water no heat sometimes we gotta boil water sometimes we don’t have water so this is the conditions that we living with appointments are for where bed bugs people living like hoarders the promise that I had seen a horrible when Mo I’m ceilings falling I’m bathroom turn apart and still housing does not care is always a situation when you call you gotta wait 3 mom 6 mom somebody comes looks at it writes it down and continue saying all will contact you it doesn’t work like that I don’t understand it why notcher hires people to fix the problem that we have

    18. Charlene Dickerson says:

      All these complex complications, and for WHAT. Service NYCHA tenants NEEDS as discussing Politics, Prolices & Procedures.

      The wait has gone on long enough!

    19. Concern says:

      The residents of NYCHA, meaning sons and daughters and some adults are the cause, for NYCHA, going down the drain. With the drug dealing, urinating and feces in the elevators and stairways. Leaving garbage in the hallways and front of the buildings and throwing garbage out the windows, also with the vandalism of the lobby entrance doors and buildings. It’s not the housing employees going around doing all this. It’s the residents that dragged this development to ruins. But you all are quick to blame the Housing Authority and the media is quick to swallow it everytime one of you decides to hurt someone, and say this wouldn’t happen if NYCHA would have fix the entrance doors. Maybe if the residents would’ve taken care of their development this wouldn’t be happening.

      • Can't take it anymore says:

        yes you are absolutely right clean it is ridiculous privatize dish it’s that’s all I think private private pqrivate

    20. C. Headley says:

      Sounds like a plan for disaster

    21. Pedestrian says:

      The protections won’t be worth the paper they are written on. Ther is no political will to enforce them. Tenants will be abused and ultimately disposed in aid of more profit. I knew that this was pRt of the tultimate go, that is, to turn all these properties over to private developers.

    22. Frank says:

      Do it please and yes I rather see it be privatize it would be better taken care of. Everything gets destroyed it’s like some were raised in a barn . Do it Dooooo it please..,..

    23. Never NYCHA says:

      This article said the hearing was “sparsely attended.” You so-called activist, advocates and community leaders sicken me. Since your voices matter so much, I want to know why didn’t your groups knock on every single apt to notify tenants to show up to this hearing? What’s really going to happen is, you are waiting to lick your chops to stay in business for yourself once the poor people hit the homeless shelters because they will be unable to afford their rents. NONE of you activist are really FOR THE PEOPLE. If you really CARED, you’ll have EVERY man, woman and child in attendance at these hearings demanding to know the facts about their housing and holding the government and businesses accountable to THE PEOPLE. NYCHA needs to educate and fix the repairs and hold tenants responsible for damages to their property these people get away with to much. Where will the people go once they get a voucher? There is no housing in NYC they can afford. Rents will increase once all these tenants get a voucher. Rules, laws and regulations will get stricter for some and don’t count on the courts to help. I dislike false leadership speaking on behalf of people because YOU only look out for self, not THE PEOPLE. Aside from a hearing, you should be consistently hosting meetings on EVERY NYCHA property and knocking on every door, leaving leaflets to let them know what the government plans to do. -THE END

    24. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      first of all, i am happy to see all the commenters who apparently are NYCHA residents. this is because the WSR is covering NYCHA more thoroughly.

      i think most of us in the community supprt the NYCHA residents and are against the false rumors and trashing of NYCHA residents spread by some commenters.

      second, this smells like creeping privatization to me. public housing in NYC was a massive success story until federal disinvestment under Reagan. We need public housing in NYC!

    25. B.B. says:

      Large public housing estates are a failure. Federal and many local governments realized this decades ago, and is why the former long as ceased providing funds for any such new construction.

      New Jersey, Illinois, and other states have local areas where public housing estates were demolished and system moved towards what federal government does now; vouchers, Section 8, and or development of “mixed income” housing.

      Large scale public housing estates have basically become warehouses for the poor. Regardless of whatever demographics existed when they first were built/opened; in most cases in the forty, fifty or sixty years since that is what they have become.

      New York City politicians for ages have had a long list of things that they deem “necessary”, but don’t wish to properly fund. New York City Transit Authority was one; so city got the state (MTA) to take it over, but has contributed less and less financial support since.

      Many NYCHA estates started out as solid middle and working class housing. And in many if not most instances yes, they were vastly better than the slum/old tenement housing they replaced. But over years much of the “working/middle” classes have left (for various reasons), and now (again) things are what they are.

      In a city where almost 70% of all rental housing is under some sort of regulation, and still there isn’t enough “affordable” housing, what can and should be done simply cannot happen. That is again what other cities have done; empty out the worst NYCHA estates, tear them down and start over.

      Many NYCHA estates have been ridden hard and put away wet. City pounces on private landlords for not maintaining their properties, but yet it systematically has starved NYCHA for same. Result is many buildings are simply beyond their useful life. They need billons for gut renovations, or again just tear them down and start over.

      Compare Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village to the NYCHA estates to their south. All went up at about same time, and to serve basically similar purposes. Difference is at least Met Life and subsequent owners put money into STPCV.

    26. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      another screed from “B.B.” (whom at least one person mistook for me: he or she is not) in support of the real estate industry.

      if you know the history of public housing, you know the difference between public housing in NYC and Chicago.

      the real estate industry would love to get their grimy little hands on the public housing land.

      few phrases are more biased and loaded than the NY Post-style phrase “warehouses for the poor.” Are these luxury condos “warehouses for the rich”? NYCHA consists of mostly lower income people living their lives, very productive lives in most cases. read the comments above from NYCHA residents to get a flavor.

      • B.B. says:

        Sorry if the words bother you, but they happen to be true. Also they aren’t mine exclusively; do some research and you’ll find same or similar elsewhere. Everything from federal housing documents to local community and or government.

        Again there is a reason why federal government no longer finances these huge “projects”, and no, it is not just about costs either. Federal government still spends plenty on “low income” or whatever housing, just that funds now go to scatter site, vouchers, and other schemes.

        As for “low income” housing, suggest you research the history of public housing both at federal level and NYC.

        Going back to the beginnings in 1935 public housing per se was not strictly “low income”, but to provide housing for working through middle class households.

        As things ramped up in 1940’s through 1960’s slum clearance and urban renewal were added to the mix.

        Robert Moses would use the latter two effectively (as it relates to UWS) to clear out San Juan Hill and other “tenement slums” of West Side from Chelsea up to lower Harlem.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          “BB” said:

          “Sorry if the words bother you, but they happen to be true. Also they aren’t mine exclusively; do some research and you’ll find same or similar elsewhere. Everything from federal housing documents to local community and or government.”

          Sure, you can find plenty of right wing sources that accuse public housing of “warehousing the poor.” That doesn’t mean it’s not a vile attack on both the concept of public housing and the people who live in it. it’s classist, and in fact racist. And it’s shallow.

          What does “warehousing the poor” even mean? public housing for decades in NYC and in other places that had well-run agencies supplied decent housing for low income residents at an affordable price. what is “warehousing” about that? it’s just shallow NY Post style trash talk that refers to the fact that it’s publicly run and that low income people live there. it’s right wing “framing”, sort of like calling an inheritance tax “a death tax”… only worse.

          If NYCHA was just about “warehousing the poor”, how come so many highly successful people have come out of NYCHA? How many basketball players (start with Kareen Abdul Jabbar, and read what he says about his public housing experience), rap artists, other types of musicians, actors, politicians, professors, writers, poets… and lo and behold, successful capitalist billionaires! yes, Howard Schults and former Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein were both raised in NYCHA. I guess they were “warehoused.” Or was that before public housing started “warehousing” people?

          Perhaps you didn’t read the recent WSR article about the brilliant artist who sells his art on the street, CHarles McCray, “the shopping bag artist of 103rd street.” He is a NYCHA resident. Is he being “warehoused”?

          The fact that you would use this disgusting phrase, and then defend its use, says a lot about where you are coming from.

          The Federal Government stopped “liking” public housing when Ronald Reagan got in and made a sharp turn to the right on housing policy, and disinvested. Yes, it needs subsidies. But those subsidies are far less, perhaps even on a per capita basis, than homeowners and upper class condo owners receive from the mortgage interest tax deduction.

          Oh, how i would love to examine the books of some of your landlord clients to see how much they are getting in subsidies.

          the greedy real estate types, who are waging war on affordable housing in NYC, would so much like to get their paws on NYCHA property. And they prefer Section 8 over NYCHA because SEction 8 is a subsidy for landlords… often the WORST landlords.

          The private sector has simply failed at building affordable housing in NYC. No matter your argumentation, you can’t get around that.