NYCHA Residents Wary of Chelsea Private Rebuilding Plans

Hispanic Fulton Houses residents weigh in on the mayor’s plan to tear down and rebuild some buildings. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Having lived for more than 50 years at NYCHA’s Fulton Houses in Chelsea, Blanca Rosa del Toro is a bit scared at the news that the city is planning to tear down two of the 11 housing complex buildings, where some 1,000 people live, to rebuild them and create more apartment units.

She is worried and upset, in her own words, because the plan to build two new towers would allocate 30% of affordable housing units accommodating the 72 families affected by construction, but the remaining 70% would be rented at market prices.

The 82 year-old grandmother, one of the first dwellers in the housing complex where Hispanics are a majority, asked the Mayor to reconsider his plan (…)

“What’s going on here is quite simple. The mayor wants to kick us out and bring over rich people, so he is giving away the buildings to his friends the real estate developers, so they can hike the rent and make good money, and the poor will be left with nothing,” said the NYCHA resident, who currently pays a $312 rent for her apartment. “He should look for a place somewhere else. They’re always going after us, the poor, and I am absolutely opposed to that (…)”

Clarisa Orengo, who moved to the Chelsea complex 34 years ago with her husband, is also against the de Blasio administration plan.

“This is how displacement starts. This area will become more expensive and then they will want to tear down more buildings. We cannot allow such abuse,” said Orengo, from Puerto Rico. “These types of plans only benefit the rich.”

The income generated by the new plan would be invested in renovations for NYCHA buildings, which are estimated to cost around $168 million.

While not enthusiastic about the prospect that private developers will control the new buildings, Miguel Acevedo, president of the Fulton Houses tenants board, said the plan is a “viable” option to generate funds for badly-needed repairs across the complex.

“I’m not a big fan of that but we need to be realistic, and as NYCHA has not the money for the repairs we need, we have no other option,” said Acevedo, who stressed that the project will not leave tenants homeless.

“This is a misunderstanding. We’ve been holding meetings for months here in my office and I have explained them that nobody is going to be kicked out. This is not going to happen, as I trust the Mayor’s word,” he said. “The current residents will not get a rent hike. That is going to stay the same.”

(…) “NYCHA is confronting a crisis and we need to look at everything we can do to improve the lives of the New Yorkers who live in those buildings, but I can’t support any plan displacing residents from their community,” said Corey Johnson, the Council Speaker and councilman representing Chelsea, adding that “To preserve NYCHA’s future we will have to make difficult decisions.”

(…) “No resident will be displaced,” mayor spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie told El Diario. “Every Fulton Houses resident will receive a new or completely renovated apartment, and we expect to discuss the way forward with them during our working process.”

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