Monday, March 25, 2013

Outrage over proposal to turn the green space at the Meltzer Tower into private development



More details were circulating last week about the city leasing the park space at Max Meltzer Tower to private developers... among other things, the new development would wipe out the park at the senior citizen development at 94 E. First St. near First Avenue ... Flyers appeared in the vicinity during the weekend...





You can see what would be lost ... trees, opens space, light, etc.







Per the NYCHA website, this is what is proposed:

Meltzer Tower has a $10.5 million unmet need for capital building improvements over the next 5 years.

Proposed Development on Land Lease Site(s)
East 1st Street Site
Site Area: 13,000 SF (Approximate)
New Construction: 121,500 SF of Residential Floor Area (Approximate)
18,500 SF of Commercial Floor Area (Approximate)
97 New Apartments

In the self-created FAQs, officials say this with a straight face:

Wouldn’t this be disruptive to the community?
Construction would not take place forever, and would be conducted in a strictly monitored fashion.

Right!

One longtime East Village shared his thoughts on the proposal via email:

All they have to say about disruption is that construction doesn't last forever. How encouraging. They don't mention that the building will be devastating to the dozens of residents of the adjacent buildings on 2nd Street. NYCHA explains that the development of the site is necessary because the Meltzer Tower needs $10.5 million for deferred maintenance. We don't know the terms of the deal, but if that's the sale price it's peanuts for 140,000 sf. And they don't mention that the new apartment building will certainly block light from the west for Meltzer residents. Selling off public assets is always sad and usually a bad idea. The density of building in the East Village has always been an issue and it's getting worse quickly.

Upset by this proposal? Here's who you can contact, via the flyers...


[Click image to enlarge]

35 comments:

vzabuser said...

Unbelievable...this latest land grab no doubt the latest step towards curtailment of all social services-the goal of the mayors lassez faire privatization driven efforts.
Sorry if its been said before, but privatization does not work for HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION- why would you expect it to work for Public Housing?

Brian Van said...

::sigh::

I'll say upfront that I am not a fan of any transfer of parkland to private developers without the immediate, upfront conversion of closely nearby space to parkland that meets modern standards.

So, here's some random thoughts:

* Many of the proposals are for parking lots to be curtailed or wiped in favor of market housing. As a general idea, I'm completely for that. I won't anytime soon get behind the idea that public housing residents need parking, a luxury amenity.

* This park looks like it absolutely sucks, that the bench outside American Apparel is a more sociable place than this is. I think NYCHA should build on one of the nearby parking lots instead, but one possibility is that they convert this space to market housing and they take a nearby parking lot, reclaimed street, etc. and make it an actual green park with a playground, not an asphalt/concrete paradise.

* As far as whether or not this is an appropriate or moral use of Bloomberg's power, that's just political hate and ignorance. This proposal, which involves a long-embattled NYCHA doing something to help itself, should be evaluated (and shaped) on its own merits. Maybe it would be preferable to have general tax revenues make up the shortfall in NYCHA budgets. Then again, no one cared or lifted a finger until this idea was floated, and no one made a general political effort to gain some supporters for that plan from the ranks of those in NYC who find it as politically abhorrent as we find THIS proposal.

Also: the subway to Central Park is, like, RIGHT THERE. Sheesh.

Fipper said...

I still can't accept the fact that this is really happening. I can't help but think of the corruption and the large amount of money being or will be passed under the table. "Much needed maintanence over the next 5 years." Well, what will happen after 5 years? All will be fixed? Will the revenue from these private developments will continue to subsidize public housing after 5 years? I doubt it no matter what they say.

Jorge said...

Maybe the people who would live in the 20 affordable apartments created by this plan can live under those trees instead.

Hell, while we're at it, why not demolish some more housing in the East Village so we can have more trees?

The reality is that there is a housing shortage in this city, and towers-in-the-park has turned out to be a destructive development model. These parks are largely underutilized and barren, and the greater social good would come from building housing supply--places for people to live--and gaining income to fix existing affordable housing. You don't see a single person in that view.

EV Grieve said...

@ jorge

I took the photos early Saturday morning. Few people were in Tompkins Square Park at that time either. Perhaps we should bulldoze that as well to make way for some condos.

Anonymous said...

@Jorge: and if you are old and have trouble walking, Central Park is a lot further away than a quick subway ride............

Spencer said...

I completely agree with all of Brian Van's comments (with the exception of the train to central park).

The budget shortfall at NYCHA needs to be addressed which either means raising taxes or NYCHA independently generating revenue.

Leasing (not selling) underused land in areas where development sites can generate significant revenue seems to be an effective way of the doing the latter.

Now this opens the debate of what land classifies as 'underused'. I agree with Brian Van that parking lots are an unnecessary and extravagant amenity.

Public outdoor space is a harder case to make but if this outdoor space allows for a profitable development site than maybe other underused sites (parking) could be converted to park space as Brian Van suggests.

My recollection, although I admittedly haven't read the entire proposal yet, is that community resources displaced by the developments will need to constructed in new locations at the developer's expense.

Anonymous said...

I guess the issue remains, how does the needed costs and repairs get met without this idea? What about making these home private and giving residents ownership like was done at cpw near 100th st?

Anonymous said...

This is not a public park. It's a paved plaza with trees that is restricted to residents of Meltzer Towers. For over 30 years as I've passed by, whatever the time, whatever the season it has been empty 99% of the time. The other 1%there has been one or two people.

Anonymous said...

@Grieve - don't give them any ideas. They have already privatized a big chunk of Tompkins Square Park, with the yuppie hockey league every weekend, during prime hours for pick-up hoops, softball, skateboarding etc. They take over the park every weekend in the summer with corporate sponsored events, and then in the Fall they have that Halloween Dog Parade for all the owners of pure breeds now in the neighborhood. There are plenty of ways that revenue can be raised short of developing luxury housing on NYCHA land. The thing that makes the EV still habitable is the amount of open space we have. It's not about packing these open spaces with people, in fact I would argue just having open space with a few benches is great as it just breaks up the landscape, so we don't live in a sea of concrete and glass. Oh and it's ironic that our Mayor Mr. Green, Mr. Sustainable wants to cut down trees, when trees soak up heat and actually have a positive impact on the heat island. You think the EV is hot and congested in the summer, when all the sidewalk cafes are in full swing and the tourists decsend on the neighborhood, oh and let's not forget all the Citibank bikes on the streets, wait till we lose more trees and open spaces, then the concrete will be hot enough to fry and egg on. I guess none of this will matter to the new residents of the luxury towers and the other rich folk in the neighborhood, because they will be either in their air conditioned castles or at their summer homes in Connecticut, Upstate NY or the Hamptons. Sure take away trees and open spaces from senior citizens on fixed incomes, who may not even be able to get out of their apartments, but can at least peak out their windows and see the seasons reflected in those big trees, yeah that's a good solution to the problems with NYCHA. This is ridiculous and I wish someone would really raise a ruckus about this one as I would love to be part of some real protests in this neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Did it ever occur to you that the reason no-one is in the park is because of the weather, hence why it looks so barren?

Anonymous said...

Why should we raise taxes to pay for parking for people who already received subsidized housing?

NYCHA apartments on the LES are surrounded by privately owned apartments, without parking, that are generally smaller. Those people who live across the street or nearby are paying much, much more per month, and they are also paying the taxes to NYC to fund their neighbors over at NYCHA.

Now the NYCHA residents would like to keep their parking and parks, and have the rest of us pay for the shortfalls in maintaining their apartments.

The solution is to either: Raise taxes to pay for NYCHA, lease land to developers, or privatise NYCHA.

Anonymous said...

Another despicable thing about this plan is that the developers are getting a tax break. So they are getting the land at below market prices and getting a tax break. For those who keep making the point that everyone else has to pay for parking so why should the NYCHA residents get it for free, you sound like the greedy, selfish people who have swarmed into the neighborhood over the last few years, who want what you want, when you want it, how you want it and have no interest in the needs of others or those who made this the place you want to live in now. Why are you so jealous of the folks in NYCHA getting a parking space for free, and some green space? So if you can't have it others shouldn't. It's like the kid on my block when I was about 6 who used to storm off with his football when his team lost the corner touch football game.

Matt said...

Sure, build on parking lots. But I don't care how "underutilized" anyone thinks these open spaces for sports, recreation and contemplation are, the city shouldn't hand them over to developers. That little stand of trees lets light into an otherwise barren vertical moonscape. Those playgrounds and ball courts at other complexes let cooped-up city kids stretch their legs. Saying "Well, just hop on the subway and go up to Central Park if you like open space so much" is just stupid. Density is good, but open space is essential to maintaining sanity and physical health in a neighborhood as dense as ours.

Gojira said...

There is not a single park that does not look bleak and forbidding in the winter, with its trees denuded of leaves and its grounds empty of people. But what those eager to see this "useless" open space demolished fail to realize is the vital psychological impact such spaces have on both their surroundings and the people who live near them, use them, or simply walk by them. Thoreau would have known immediately that this space affords light, air, ventilation, and a sense of openness in a city that offer precious little of all three of those priceless commodities. Yes, we can sell off every single open space to developers to benefit their bottom line and bring yet more people into a city already groaning at the seams, but I have never wanted to live in the world of "Bladerunner", and I doubt Brian Van, Jorge, or any other pro-building adherents would, either. Some things transcend money, and in my mind, the ability to walk by an open, tree-filled space, even if it isn't on par with the gardens at Versailles, rather than by yet another concrete, glass and steel facade closing me in, is a true rationale for keeping this - and other spaces like it - open for all to enjoy, even if only peripherally. We have already lost so much, and to whose benefit? The everyday Joe on the street? Hardly.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to hear nycha explain what other options it considered this is nothing more than a way to enrich Bloomberg pals and a public expression of contempt for low income people all I keep reading on these forums is oh the poor have parking and parks and I don't and to suggest central park is nearby reveals you have no idea what you are talking about

Anonymous said...

As said above . This is not a public park. Unless you are a resident of meltzer you are not wanted . I would like to see a picture of that sign.

Goggla said...

@Gojira - well said.

bowery boy said...

Did we learn nothing from the 5 Points about stockpiling people without light and air? Did we learn nothing from the failure of public housing about the warehousing of people? Anyone thinking about the original reason for this open area in the first place? It wasn't an accident of design. If you're gonna cram people into big buildings, then you've got to give them a lil' space around these facilities for sanity's sake. Why are we piling failure on top of failure? This makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

I love the way those trees cast shadows sometimes in that park, it was even nicer when the building at the far wall had a beautiful mural several years ago ... however, there are some crotchety old people who are not very welcoming, and who never really seem to use the space, except for the woman who does tai chi, just my observation. No reason though to destroy the space.

glamma said...

The ONLY group that will benefit in ANY way from this barbaric and heartless idea is the super rich developers and the politicians whose pockets they line. If you believe any of the tissue-thin lies they are trying to peddle with this you are an idiot. The permanent and deep damage to the rest of us will be irreversible. We need to set a precedent for REAL quality of life protection by rising up and opposing this garbage! the implications will be widespread and multifaceted - this is hardly just about people in the PJ's.

Anonymous said...

Glamma - name the time and place and I am there as I am sure others will be. Someone has to take the lead though so . . .

Anonymous said...

Platitudes aside, HOW DO YOU FIX and PAY for the Housing? Do you know some people pay 150 a year to park? Really in NYC? I rather like the open space on 1st street and would not want to see it developed, but again, how do you fix the housing without money?

Anonymous said...

Wheelchair bound. Walking with a cane. Walking with a walker. Walking with an aide, laborously. Slowly. That is the reality of the people who use this park (and they do, when it's nice out.)

The idea that the elderly poor can just hop on a subway and go anywhere shows how very very out of touch some people are. But then again, turning nursing homes into condos does too.

Fipper said...

@glamma - Exactly! 5 years from now, they'll probably come up with another excuse to propose some other development. By that time, we've forgotten about the parking lots and the parks they took away this time around.

Anonymous said...

The system requires money this private park is not that well used...perhaps a new laundry and elevators would offer more,there is a plaza area anyway upgrade it. Do these people understand the difference between property owner and leaseholder they are leaseholders and like any leaseholder free to leave when the lease is up. The property belongs to the NYC taxpayer not them.

Crazy Eddie said...

The empathy exhibited here on this thread by our new EV lords and masters is breathtaking.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't make any sense to balance NYCHA's budget on the backs of the seniors at Meltzer, or residents of NYCHA housing anywhere. Look to recent articles about the corruption in NYCHA beaucracy (corruption exposed by an audit that Bloomberg accused reporters of being morbidly interested in). Is anyone surprised that Bloomberg, who has appointed the NYCHA leadership, supports a plan that suggests that sweetheart leases for developers? Come on! Anything that gives Bloomberg reason to shove outsize luxury housing into a neighborhood is taken advantage of. Look at recent history.

I fear that what we'll get is ugly boxy Avalon-style buildings popping up on NYCHA housing with no thought for what they do to neighborhood light, air, and density. Five Points was a great reference. Where are our city planners on this? Maybe we only employ developers...

And the suggestion that residents of the neighborhood are a short ride away from Central Park is insensitive at best. Have you ever met with residents of Meltzer? And the rest of us should walk blocks or ride the subway for a bit of sunlight?

rob said...

Suppose we fight and win funds for NYCHA to fix the damage from Sandy. What about next year? Do we all have to fight each year? Which years will we win, which lose? Will NYCHA tenants have heat only in election years?

NYCHA needs a reliable, fat revenue stream, not a yearly fight. Why does everyone consider NYCHA and the government an incompetent landlord? Because it lacks funds. It lacks funds because all its properties are low-rent, low profit, so its funding depends on political will. Imagine if NYCHA owned the Upper East Side. It'd be rolling in dough, enough to manage those properties and to maintain the projects in style. Government does a good job with parks and libraries even with limited funds. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with NYCHA or government management. It needs a fat revenue stream.

That's the idea behind this proposal. I object to it because the state should build and own it, not lease it to a private developer. I object to it because it will upscale the neighborhood. But should we sacrifice the well-being of the NYCHA tenants for the sake of our own anti-gentrification fantasy? If we lived in a low-income, ethnic neighborhood, I'd be with you, but the EV is already upscale. If these developments were close to the heart of Chinatown, I'd be up in arms.

I don't welcome more upscale developments. I detest all of them. And not because they steal air -- I like the urban tenement landscape. I came to Loisaida between B & C in 1978 specifically to get away from those upscale developments and live in marginality in and among tenements and their streetwall. But look at the name of this blog. EV *Grieve*. Grieve over the dead, sure, but fight for the dead? There's no sense in fighting for the dead when the NYCHA tenants are still alive. Fight for the state to build these itself so that all the market-rate profit will go to NYCHA, not a private landlord.

The tough choice is between maitaining NYCHA with a reliable revenue stream, or try to keep out more upscale families. We have a chance to help NYCHA tenants. I doubt we have a chance against the upscaling of this neighborhood. It's a shame and it's disgusting, but those are the choices I see.

bowery boy said...

Thinking that new development in NYCHA is going to provide a revenue stream for repairs is about as stupid as thinking that a lottery was going to fund our schools. The elected leaders who spend our tax money are a lot smarter than that. Money will be sphoned off asap. Margarita Lopez and other NYCHA leaders want these buildings to be run down, or else there would no other motive for folks to move out.

rob said...

bowery boy -- Then let's fight for transparency over the earmarking. If funds never go to the subsidized housing - that's what you're saying - then all those tenants in them are lost. You and I both know exactly what the city would most like -- evict them all and sell the river views as private condos. Folks, complaining is easy. Let's have a solution. Doesn't have to be this one. Unless you're saying the NYCHA tenants are lost, so just forget about them...

Anonymous said...

It's not just transparency in earmarking. Given NYCHA's budget these revenue streams are tiny. I agree with Bowery Boy. Why rob would think "leasing" this NYCHA land to developers would guarantee a fat revenue stream is beyond me. They do need a solid revenue stream, this debate should be about why authorities like NYCHA and the MTA get such meager funding when they serve such an important role. It should not be about what land must be leased off for them to pay their bills.

They are starving them, like they are our schools, in the hopes they fail and can be privatized. (Or at least a lot of their functions. Look how the massive test and test prep industry has eaten into school budgets. Schools have little discretion on this but are spending huge sums while Pearson, College Board, etc. get rich.)

I do think too there is evidence of massive waste and mismanagement from NYCHA, and that is related to this. It's not they they should have to be self-supporting--the city has a responsibility to fund public housing adequately--but the cronyism has got to go.

I also disagree with rob's liking of luxury housing to the urban tenement landscape in their lack of air. The Avalon complex is mammoth, nothing like the tenement landscape. It changes the scale of the neighborhood entirely, dwarfing tenements.

And while the area around Meltzer may have already been up scaled with the developments on Houston, etc. the same cannot be said for the other proposed sites east and south.

Also, I hope we are all doing more than complaining!

rob said...

I completely agree with anon 12:03 -- that's why if anything is built there, NYCHA shouldn *NOT* lease the land but ask the state to build it and reap all the profit from it, earmarked for NYCHA. The state loves to build -- prisons, college buildings, anything for the powerful construction industry. All it takes is a bond.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that Margarita Lopez and Rosie Mendez have already brainwashed residents of Compos Plaza.

The problem is with their cronies. The supposed radicals of GOLES and The Cooper Square Committee. They say things like we would like a larger portion for affordable housing. Bullshit.

I am calling around to see where people stand. Perhaps we can hook up with the people of Smith Houses.

Lopez says "shut up" unless you have ideas on where to get the money needed. How can we have ideas if we can't voice them- just shut up!






rob said...

Anon 1:01 -- If there's a solution for NYCHA, let's find it. If there's a movement, count me in. At lesrrd@gmail.com
I can reach 100's of contacts in the neigborhood...