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Public Housing Residents Divided Over NYCHA's Plan For Nearby Private Development

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The New York City Housing Authority wants to move forward with a plan to lease some of its land near eight Manhattan housing projects to private developers, in order to raise money to make improvements to those projects, but the idea is not getting the warmest reception. Borough reporter Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

Thelma Yearwood has lived at the Meltzer Tower housing project in the East Village for almost 20 years. Residents say the building really needs some work, but Yearwood says the idea of paying for it by building a private development in the park next door is just unacceptable.

"If the building went up, that means I'll be looking at a wall," said Yearwood. "I go to my window, I have three beautiful windows. What would I be seeing? A wall. It's like I'd be in prison."

The Meltzer apartments are specifically for seniors, and residents were given the chance to sound off on the plan Monday.

It is one of 14 sites on eight NYCHA properties in Manhattan that could be leased. The other seven properties are Douglass Houses, Washington Houses, Carver Houses, Campos Plaza, Baruch Houses, Smith Houses and LaGuardia Houses. NYCHA officials would still own the land, and they say cuts in federal funding means they desperately need money to make major repairs to the buildings.

"An alternative had to come forward to fix them. It is impossible for NYCHA to continue to operate with a deficit on the capital side of over $999 million," said Margarita Lopez, a NYCHA board member.

Housing authority officials said the plan could generate more than that.

At Meltzer in particular, the development would help provide for more than $10 million in needed improvements.

Some residents at Meltzer were on board with the plan.

"I think it's a very good idea. It'll help Meltzer houses because they are deteriorating," said Minerva Zabrocky, a public housing resident.

Even though the housing authority is holding forums and soliciting input from residents, some said they still felt their voices were not being heard.

"So they having these meetings, but they already have their plan, they're not going to take our suggestions, they're not going to change anything," said Carmen Negron, a public housing resident.

While discussions with residents are still ongoing, NYCHA officials said they do plan to issue a request for proposals from interested developers by the end of the month.

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