By Zachary Folk
A new 23-floor apartment building being proposed for 96th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue could bring affordable housing and micro-unit studios to the neighborhood. The new project, partially located on the site of a now-defunct MTA substation, is set to be discussed at a joint meeting of Community Board 7’s Land Use Committee and Housing Committee on Wednesday October 16 at 6:30 p.m.
The developer, Fetner Properties, bills itself as a luxury rental and condo company, with properties throughout the city, including in Hell’s Kitchen, NoMad, and the Upper East Side. Their buildings have names like “The Victory” and “The Epic.”
According to the city’s environmental impact study, the proposed development at 266 West 96th street would create 171 new apartments, 68 of which would be classified as permanent affordable housing. The development would include units for families making 50, 70, and 130 percent of the area median income, which was $112,191 as of 2017 Census data. Fetner is planning to classify many of these apartments as “micro-units,” which typically refers to studio apartments under 300 square feet. The project is currently scheduled to be completed by 2022. Fetner did not respond to multiple requests for comment from West Side Rag.
Fetner submitted a bid to purchase one currently unused lot from the city – once the home of an MTA substation – as well as two smaller buildings adjacent to the lot on 96th Street. Those two smaller buildings currently house Sprout, a nonprofit organization providing services for people with developmental disabilities, the offices of the NAACP Mid-Manhattan branch and a Salvation Army storefront. The Salvation Army and NAACP are expected to occupy community facility space in the new building.
Fetner has been reaching out to people in neighboring buildings to discuss the project. One resident who heard from the company expressed optimism. “Any big development in my neighborhood I have to think is a good thing, because there’s value in where I live,” said Jordan Cooper, president of the co-op board at 749 West End Ave. Cooper said his primary concern was the potential for development to stall and leave the block undeveloped. “They just bulldozed the Gristede’s and Chase Bank at the corner of 96th and Broadway,” and there’s been little information on the timeline of that project, he said.
In the bid the developers submitted to develop the properties, the NYC Office of Housing Preservation and Development outlined several concerns about the new project, including its potential to change the character of the neighborhood and cast shadows on historic buildings.
But Cooper was less concerned about changing neighborhood character than he was about bringing much-needed activity to the block. He says that the area is known for drug use – he’s seen needles there. “There’s just nothing there right now,” said Cooper. “That side of the block – whenever it snows, it’s a real problem. You can’t make it up the hill and because no one is shoveling it.”
Cooper was also hopeful that Fetner’s plan to include low-income housing in the development would come to fruition. “As far as I’m concerned, if they’re really planning on doing 40 percent low income micro-units, I think that’s fantastic,” he said. “Everyone’s always talking about housing issues for people who are not multi-millionaires.”
Photos by Zachary Folk.