Chelsea tenant-chosen development plan looks to change the way NYCHA repairs are made

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Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer applauded the Tenant Association on Dec. 1.
Photo by Dean Moses

The first group of tenant associations to ever lead both a NYCHA review and developer selections announced Wednesday over $366 million in repairs set to be completed for 2,054 apartments in the Chelsea area.   

At the official unveiling of the multi-million-dollar tenant overseen project inside of the Fulton Senior Center at 119 9th Ave. on Dec. 1, speakers boasted that the world would take notice of residents choosing their own developer for their own desired improvements. Tenant leaders said the road to the announcement was paved with raised voices and finger pointing, but they also believe the struggle was well worth it.         

“I cannot reiterate enough how much of a momentous occasion this is for the entire neighborhood, but especially for the residents of Fulton Chelsea, Chelsea Addition and Elliot houses,” said Miguel Acevedo President of the Fulton Houses Tenant Association. “Nobody understands the need for upgrades and improvements in increased security like our residents throughout the entire proposals, review and selection process, NYCHA residents were not just briefed from time to time. The team of residents spearheaded the conversations, asked questions, and ultimately made the decision. This is why truly about residents for tenants by tenants about tenants.”

Vicki Been, New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development. Photo by Dean Moses

After 2 1/2 years, history has been made as residents from NYCHA’s Fulton Houses and Elliott-Chelsea Houses tenant association partnered with Essence Development and Related Companies to address repair issues for housing units in the Fulton, Chelsea, Chelsea Addition and Elliott Houses—effecting some 4,500 residents across 18 buildings in the process.

Rather than simply demolitions buildings, a tenant review committee met and drafted the Request for Proposals (RFP), then assessed applications and made a final decision for the selected proposal—which was a first in NYCHA’s history. In April 2019, the proposed framework was released, addressing both the current repair needs and efforts needed for the future. Additionally, the efforts made by the tenants have helped underscore financial necessities, expand resident rights, and safeguard a community by prioritized measures.  

“I think that’s what’s so remarkable about you know about this process. The working group recommendations, all that we heard from the residents that, all of the work that we did, for example, on the resident protections in the leases and in the rules and regulations. All of that helped drive the RFP and the participation of the residents in the RFP process. All of that was driven by the working group,” Vicki Been, New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, “Today we really celebrate a key step forward. The selection of the developers and congratulations to Related Companies and Essence Development for being our newest PAC partners, and we are very excited about that, I told all of the developers that the world is watching what happens here.”

Both Tenant Association Presidents Darlene Waters of the Elliott-Chelsea Houses and Miguel Acevedo of the Fulton Houses acknowledged that this level of resident engagement had never been done before within public housing, and they believe it should be considered a model moving forward across the country.

Assembly member Richard Gottfried. Photo by Dean Moses

“I certainly hope this model is followed all around the city. You know what this shows? I say this have to say this on many occasions, when you work with this community, when you work with Board 4 and you work with community groups, with the tenants in this community good things happen,” said Assembly member Richard Gottfried.