Talk to residents and neighbors of Holmes Towers in Yorkville and you will hear that NextGeneration NYCHA -- the housing authority's plan to sell underutilized land to earn desperately needed cash and build mixed-income apartments -- is already a done deal.
"This is the mayor, he can do what he wants to do," says Jay Poole, 59, a resident.
"You think it's doing any good?" asks Evelyn Fitzgerald, 58, concerning recent resident activism.
That sense of futility is unfortunate. It's not a secret that NYCHA is in a difficult situation. With a $98 million deficit this year, and $16.9 billion in unmet capital needs -- which includes such necessities as fixing elevators and roofs -- the authority needs money. The most controversial aspect of NextGen NYCHA -- selling off land that the authority believes it can part with -- would help bridge the monetary gap. Open spaces at Holmes Towers and Wyckoff Gardens in Brooklyn are under consideration so far, with parking lots and playgrounds among the possible options.
In meetings with residents, NYCHA was clear on what the program would not do: raise rents for residents or kick them out of their apartments. But the fact remains: Residents are getting a headache that they didn't ask for. New construction and the loss of free space are being forced on Holmes and Wyckoff residents; in return, NYCHA is holding a series of meetings with residents to make the plan workable. Residents, naturally, say they've heard it before.
To mitigate the loss of space, air and amenities just outside their windows, residents must see real benefits. Many residents at Holmes speak of deteriorating conditions -- leaky pipes and ceilings, no hot water, elevators that work only sporadically. NYCHA needs money, to be sure, but that money must go to maintaining the housing that we have. The old should be as good as the new.
The next meeting between NYCHA and Holmes residents is set for Wednesdaynight. NYCHA should use the opportunity to provide more than token favors, and maintain as painstakingly as it builds, to prove that the deal's not done.