Standing outside 49-51 Chambers Street, one of the buildings the Bloomberg administration plans to sell to private sector developers in a one-time cash infusion for the City, Stringer highlighted his concerns with the City’s plan which he expressed in a letter sent to the Mayor this week.
“Smart governing begins with smart planning,” he said. “Selling prime city assets in a one-shot deal is a hasty and imprudent way of solving budget shortfalls. The Mayor knows that the solution to our City’s budget woes will not be found through patchwork deals, but through long-term planning with the public’s best interest in mind.”
As announced in the Mayor’s State of the City address, the City plans to sell three buildings in the downtown Civic Center with a total of 669,000 square feet, including 22 Reade, currently home to City Planning, 49-51 Chambers, currently home to the offices of the Board of Correction, Community Board #1, Dept. of Education, NYPD, Parks, and 346 Broadway, currently home to Court, Cultural Affairs, HHC, MOVA/Veteran Service, and NYPD office.
According to Citi-Habitats, the average price of a two-bedroom apartment in TriBeCa is $5,650 a month. There have beenrecent challenges to Lower Manhattan’s existing affordable housing stock, such as at Independence Plaza North where a landlord illegally removed his tenants from the city’s rent-stabilization program. The Borough President believes that the City should explore every opportunity available to create new affordable housing for the middle class. It is estimated that these properties proposed for sale could produce as much as 653 units of housing.
School overcrowding has been an issue in Lower Manhattan since the area’s comeback following September 11th. The Department of Education recently oversaw an expansive rezoning in order to deal with overcrowding, and the City is projected to be short hundreds of elementary school seats in coming years. Every year, hundreds of Lower Manhattan parents are faced with uncertainty about where their children will attend school and how long wait lists will last.
“It is the responsibility of the city to think beyond highest market value – they need to consider what public benefit these properties can provide,” Borough President Stringer continued. “We have a school overcrowding crisis in lower Manhattan. Could one of these properties be home to a new school? As rent prices continue to skyrocket, lower Manhattan is further and further out of reach for Middle Class families. Let’s look at the potential opportunities for affordable housing development, rather than rushing to turn public property into a luxury hotel.”
All property disposed by the City must go through the ULURP process. One property, 346 Broadway, went through ULURP in 1998; the other two have not gone through ULURP yet. If HPD is selling the property for residential use or if DCAS were to plan on selling the properties at auction, then ULURP approval is the final approval needed. However, in this case the City is planning on selling the property to EDC. Since EDC is a local development corporation, the charter mandates that the Borough Board approve the sale.
State Senator Daniel Squadron said, “As Lower Manhattan has grown, we’ve had increasing need and shrinking availability of locations for the schools and affordable housing the neighborhood needs to continue to thrive. Consolidation of city operations and reuse of these buildings provide a unique opportunity that must be realized.”
Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick said, “City owned or state owned property is actually owned by the people and these properties must address the needs of the community, which include first and foremost affordable housing. The expense of providing emergency housing versus the revenue from a one-shot sale needs to be part of any equation performed by the Mayor.”