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Housing czar turns to real estate biz to help rebuild NYCHA

VICKI BEEN

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been is asking for the real estate industry’s help to bring NYCHA housing out of its state of disrepair.

Been said the city needs developers to build housing that’s a mix of affordable and market rate on under-used NYCHA land to help pay for renovations at the adjacent buildings.
Other proposals include selling air rights “where appropriate” and having private developers take over management of existing buildings.

The plan has already been in motion since 2017 through NYCHA’s Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) program, in which private developers handle improvements at public housing. Under the program, properties must remain affordable and under city control and the apartments convert to Section 8. In July, the city named six partners to work on improving 16 public housing properties in Manhattan.

However, there is still plenty more to do throughout the city, Been said, while addressing a crowd of real estate professionals at a Crain’s NY Business forum on Tuesday.

“We can continue to hope the billions needed will somehow magically appear,” she said. “Or we can step in and make systematic policy change harnessing private resources and city funds.
“What we can’t do is delay. It’s demolition by neglect. End the analysis paralysis. End the hand-wringing about how bad NYCHA is. If you ask questions, we’re all ears, but unless you have a realistic, immediately actionable plan, don’t ask for one more delay for more analysis.”

To the real estate industry she stressed, “I need your support. I need your ideas. I need your willingness to step up and help us move forward.”

Over the next 10 years, NYCHA will need $32 billion in capital, which the city hopes will be funded with a combination of private investment and federal funding. NYCHA has lost $1.5 million in federal funding since 2001, which the agency has blamed the backlog of unaddressed problems on.

Been acknowledged that figuring out land use can be exhausting for landlords and residents alike. “Not just in NYCHA, but across the board,” she said. “These are things we have to work on as a city. What are the jobs that are being produced? Who gets the jobs? We need to have that conversation.”

Been added that it’s a goal of the de Blasio administration not just to fix problems caused by decades of neglect and disinvestment, but to improve public housing for its 400,000 residents. Through PACT, 5,000 NYCHA units have already been rehabbed or are still in the process and 10,000 are in new development.

The deputy mayor, who lived in a women’s SRO when she first moved to New York from Colorado, also mentioned that the city was on track to create or preserve 300,000 affordable units of housing by 2026, as the mayor has committed to.

At one point, Been discussed gentrification, saying that more neighborhoods in New York have gotten poorer, not richer. To help those communities, another goal of the city is to have more job opportunities available where those residents live.

“Some people call it gentrification; I don’t,” said Been. “I call it helping people out of poverty.”

While Been called Amazon’s abandoned plan for a headquarters in Long Island City a “very serious blow” in terms of the jobs it would have created, she noted that an effort to create good paying jobs is underway in a more “retail” way with the city focusing on life sciences, AI and other forms of tech.

The Union Square tech hub, a tech work and training center, that’s been pushed by the city despite some opposition from preservationists, broke ground last month.

“We have to move towards a fairer city that opens up rather than hoards opportunities,” Been said.

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