Affordable Housing and ‘Micro-Units’ Proposed for New Development at Defunct MTA Site

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.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 17 comments | permalink
    1. AC57 says:

      Let’s put this in perspective, shall we? If this comes to fruition…

      This would be the tallest new development above 72nd Street since the Ariel Towers

      This would be the 3rd largest individual development above 72nd Street, again, since the Ariel Towers (the two larger towers are 145 West 108th Street and the Larstrand at 227 West 77th Street)

      This would have the HIGHEST RATIO of affordable housing in ANY new development on the Upper West Side, since 145 West 108th Street, at 39.76% affordable housing.

      While I think they STILL should go taller, this is EXACTLY what we should be striving for when it comes to new housing. WHAT. GOES. IN. MATTERS. Let’s not try to derail a project that is really beneficial.

      Imagine what could’ve been done if this wasn’t a contextual district. Just imagine.

      Well done Fetner. Can’t wait to see the renderings.

    2. Stanley Wise says:

      Does “micro units” sound like homeless housing? I wonder if they’ll bail on this plan and merge it with the Extell lot next door – they’re just not saying it yet.

    3. Rob G. says:

      What a huge disappointment. The neighborhood is already a mess due to all the shelters in the west 90s, and unless I’m mistaken it sounds like these “micro-units” are just another word for some sort of supportive housing. No wonder Extell bailed on the adjacent parcel, they must have seen this coming.

      • Young Sally says:

        Micro units usually refer to places that are simply small and include specially designed furnishings to make the small space livable. There’s one down in Gramercy, I think. They tend to be a mix of affordable plus market rent apartments. I’ve always thought that it’s an interesting concept particularly for people just out of school

      • Sherman says:

        @ Rob G-

        Actually these micro-units are very likely not for homeless people or supportive housing.

        Can you imagine the outcry from UWS liberals if homeless people were housed in 300 sq foot apartments!

        Rather, these micro-units are probably geared towards young people who need a relatively affordable place in the city and are willing to tough it out until they earn enough to move onto a decent sized apartment.

        In any case, it’s pathetic that there are folks who have been living for decades in ginormous apartments and paying pennies in rent while newcomers are crammed into 300 square foot apartments.

        NYC liberalism at its best!

        Sherm

    4. Cindy Hoelting says:

      Doesn’t sound good for families with children. Where do they play that mom and dad can see? Playgrounds with bullies and drug pushers! Townhouses with small yards also need to be considered. wou

    5. Dresden says:

      Billy Crystal exclaimed recently, on Colbert, “NYC is SO CROWDED!!!” …then he did a lil demo about trying to walk on the sidewalk.
      Made me sad, as it’s true.
      …one of the reasons that 277 MORE people are leaving, than coming to NewYork, EVERY DAY.

      Keep trying to pack em in boyZ!

      Oh yeah, and don’t forget the smell of pot and nicotine EVERYWHERE.

    6. B.B. says:

      This is right next door to that new Extell development going up on corner of 96th and Broadway.

      Look for Fenter to seek some sort of sweetner due to environmental hazards of that site.

    7. Josh says:

      The UWS is increasingly unaffordable and this is a prime opportunity to add hundreds of affordable units. As long as every floor is adding additional units of affordable housing, this building should be significantly bigger.
      The UWS isn’t making any more land. When a parcel becomes available, we need to maximize the number of affordable homes for the neighborhood. This is exactly the sort of location that should bear responsibility for housing growth.

    8. B.B. says:

      Just to clarify comments in article about lack of construction activity on corner of 96th and Broadway. Demolition of existing and construction of new building are two separate and distinct processes under NY laws.

      Getting permission to demolish something is comparatively easy compared to what is involved in putting up a new building. It also is far cheaper to do the former versus latter.

      It is also far better once vacant to demolish a building (assuming lot or lots are going to be redeveloped), rather than have them sit empty. Abandoned/empty buildings become havens for all sorts of ills from vermin to squatters.

      Extell has also leveled entire block on First avenue between 79th and 80th, but nothing begun yet on new construction.

    9. David Rapkin says:

      In the Current Wars during the electrification of the country around the turn of two centuries ago Edison, the proponent of direct current went to war with Westinghouse/Tesla to see if alternating or direct current would power the world. Westinghouse/Tesla won and the world’s current alternates. Edison’s only local direct current urban infrasctructure is the NYC subway system that runs on DC. That “powerhouse” on 96th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue was a source of wonder to me as a boy when I gazed on its gargantuan turbine generators in the 1950s, the last of the giant Victorian engines I would see daily. I can still smell the ozone and see the technicians with their overalls and tool kits. Back to pneumatics?

    10. Katherine Silverman says:

      YES! BRING MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING TO THE UPPER WEST SIDE! That spot is dead, bring it to life with housing and accessibility for those making under 100% AMI.

    11. Annonymous says:

      What about the negative impact on the 96 street subway stop—already heavily used & crowded.
      Nothing in your story except positive statements from one supposed person in the neighborhood is disappointing “journalism

    12. Alan Flacks says:

      A.) W. 96th Str. is a busy Xtown Str. even there: to/from W.E.A., RSD, W.Side Hwy plus the M 96 Str. bus & its layover point. Would deliveries to the new bldg(s) block/clog traffic there along 96th Str.? And B.) What is “affordable housing”? In the N.Y.C. H.P.D. classified advts., that’s ca. $36 to $65 thou. a year.

    13. Barry says:

      Lets turn all the empty storefronts on broadway into affordable housing. 2 problems solved.

    14. Kathleen Carpenter says:

      If I am reading this correctly, 50% of the area’s median income is $56,000 and some change. And for that you merit a small studio apartment with a Murphy bed (true with a remote control but a Murphy bed nonetheless.) What bothers me is how we are always told we want these things, rather than the truth which is that we settle for them because our choices are so limited. I am wondering what these units will rent for.