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De Blasio public housing plan would bring in private developers

Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with NYHC Chair

Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with NYHC Chair Shola Olatoye and City speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, unveils a public housing plan on May 19, 2015, at James Weldon Johnson Community Center in Manhattan. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan Tuesday that he said would reverse "decades of disinvestment" in public housing, stabilizing the now-dire finances of the New York City Housing Authority while improving services for residents and putting more affordable housing on the market.

The initiative would allow developers to build on NYCHA land. Buildings would be either 100 percent affordable, creating about 10,000 new units for families making no more than $46,000 a year, or split evenly between the categories, adding about 3,500 affordable units.

NYCHA, home to about 400,000 people, has just one month of surplus cash left. It faces a $2.5 billion operating deficit over the next decade, de Blasio told reporters at the James Weldon Johnson Houses in East Harlem.

"If we don't take a fundamentally different path, there is looming danger . . . of going into federal receivership," he said.

The initiative, NextGeneration NYCHA, is a 10-year plan "to transform the housing authority, to bring it into the 21st century and make it strong for the long haul," de Blasio said.

When Michael Bloomberg was mayor, a proposal for privately built housing on NYCHA land hit stiff resistance because fewer units would have been "affordable." The de Blasio administration has named three potential sites for its plan -- Ingersoll in downtown Brooklyn, Van Dyke in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and Mill Brook in Mott Haven, the Bronx -- and is to begin soliciting developer proposals.

De Blasio's blueprint also calls for phasing out or moving 1,000 central office jobs to other agencies and more efficient collection of back rent. Monthly parking permit rates for 10,000 residents, now typically $26, would rise to $86.

The collection push and costlier parking were what City Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) called a "bitter pill" for residents that is "good for the overall health of New York." Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that residents "must be seen as contributors" for the plan to succeed.

The plan is designed to reduce NYCHA's capital costs by $4.6 billion over a decade and create an operating surplus of $230 million, city officials said.

Some residents of the Johnson houses were skeptical about promised improvements.

"It's just propaganda," said Marc Davis, 56, a lifelong public housing resident. "I have no faith in them at all." He said the complex has floorboards in need of repairs, peeling paint and broken door locks.

Miriam Gonzalez, 65, said of pricier parking: "How are people going to pay if they don't have money?"

Carmen Quinones, 56, Tenants Association president at nearby Frederick Douglass House, complained to the mayor that residents there "inhale mold and mildew."

But she was open to asking some to pay more. "They've got to do something to have revenue," she said. "You can't be against everything."

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