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'Micro-unit' apartments planned for NYC

Manhattan's notoriously tiny apartments have become even smaller.

The new "micro units" contain a living space ranging from 250 to 370 square feet and include a "toolbox" containing the bathroom and kitchen.

Built for singles and couples with perhaps one child, the new pilot-program housing , if successful, could prompt the city to change its building codes and reduce square footage required for individual dwellings.

A new $15-million building of 55 prefabricated rental units will be built on a vacant city lot between East 27th Street, First Avenue and Mount Carmel Place in Kips Bay in Manhattan.

City officials said 70 to 100 people will live in the building, and 40 percent of the units will be for low-income and middle-income residents.

Each micro unit will be prefabricated, and they will "snap on like Legos," stacking into an eight-story building, said Nick Lembo, president of Monadnock Construction, which also prefabricated the Harbor Front Inn in Greenport. The units will be built at the Brooklyn Naval Yard and assembled on site with a crane.

The project, which is not subsidized with tax dollars, aims to provide housing for single people, who make up 33 percent of city households, according to the Citizens Housing and Planning Council.

"This is about making small spaces more humane and social," said architect Mimi Hoang, whose Brooklyn firm nArchitects won an international competition to design the units. She said the design "will make people feel like they are part of something larger than their apartment."

The building will have a rooftop garden, a community room big enough for a card game on each floor, and an eighth-floor deck with a lounge area that can seat 20 for dinner or accommodate a standing-room event for 40 people. The building will also have a laundry room, a storage room and bike room.

Amenities in each unit include a 9-foot-high sliding glass door window; a Juliet balcony; a 16-foot-long storage space and a closet. The "canvas area" will be the living and sleep area.

The ceilings are about 9 feet, 10 inches tall, "maximizing air space," said Hoang. "You won't feel hemmed in and the sliding window doors will give you a great view of the neighborhood."

Couples with a combined $55,000 income and middle-income couples with a combined $106,640 will be eligible, said Commissioner Matthew Wambua of the Department of Housing Preservation & Development.

Wambua said monthly rents for 22 units will be $940 for anyone earning between 80 percent and 155 percent of the city's Area Median Income of $83,000, and the other units will rent at $1,700 to $1,800.

Eligible applicants will have to enter a lottery, which will be announced on the department's website several months before construction is scheduled to begin at the end of the year.

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