Monday, February 4, 2008

Is Roosevelt Island's Southtown Riverwalk Project Complying With Affordable Housing Requirements?

Below is joint letter from Roosevelt Island elected officials to Deborah VanAmerongen, Chair of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and Commissioner of New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). In light of NYU's $43 million purchase for faculty housing of 58 Riverwalk condo units, the letter urges the Spitzer administration and RIOC to comply with the Roosevelt Island General Development Plan by ensuring an affordable housing component to the 9 Hudson/Related Southown Riverwalk buildings. To date, the extent of the required 40% affordable housing component included in the 4 existing and 2 almost completed buildings remains unclear.

Here is an advertisement for 25 affordable rental units out of a total of 221 at Riverwalk's Building 4. I am not sure if this is accurate, but I recall being told that the Weill-Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan Kettering units in Buildings 1 and 2 being used for staff housing constitutes "affordable housing".

The letter is signed by Congress Member Maloney, Assembly Member Kellner, State Senator Serrano, Manhattan Borough President Stringer and Council Member Lappin.

January 29, 2008

Deborah VanAmerongen
Chair, Board of Directors
Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation
25 Beaver Street
New York, NY 10004

Dear Chair VanAmerongen:

Together we have worked hard to preserve affordability in Northtown, and we are pleased that the new administration appreciates the role of the General Development Plan (GDP) as Roosevelt Island’s blueprint, a document that cannot be ignored or amended at a whim.

We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to ensuring 100 years of affordability on Roosevelt Island, and we take this opportunity to remind you that this goal must encompass not just Northtown but also Southtown, and that the latter remains just as subject to the mandates of the GDP as the former.

In light of the recent news that New York University has agreed to purchase 58 apartments in Riverwalk Landing for faculty residences, there has been a renewed focus on Southtown’s place in the fabric of the Roosevelt Island community. We believe it is important that the administration and RIOC ensure that new housing in Southtown includes truly affordable units as required by the GDP.

Roosevelt Island’s amended General Development Plan mandates that at least 10-20% of housing in Southtown must be reserved for families whose incomes do not exceed 50% of the prevailing median income in the New York City metropolitan area, while at least 30-40% must be reserved for families whose incomes do not exceed 120 % of the area’s prevailing median income. With four of Southtown’s nine buildings completed, and the fifth and sixth buildings having just been topped off, it is vital that RIOC and DHCR be prepared to ensure that this 40% benchmark for affordability is upheld. What is being done to ensure that Hudson-Related upholds the terms of the GDP and that when all nine buildings are completed, 40% of their units are affordable and occupied by low- and middle-income residents?

Preservation and expansion of affordable housing is at the core of the State’s role in Roosevelt Island. This administration has demonstrated its commitment to this principle with respect to Northtown. It must act now to show that it is equally committed to guaranteeing affordability for Southtown.

We ask that you reply to Assembly Member Kellner at 315 East 65th Street, New York, NY 10065.

Very truly yours,

Carolyn B. Maloney Scott M. Stringer José M. Serrano
Member of Congress Manhattan Borough President State Senator

Micah Z. Kellner Jessica S. Lappin
Assembly Member Council Member

cc: Steve Shane, President, Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation
David Kramer, Hudson-Related
James Clancy, Office of the Governor
Mathew Katz, President, Roosevelt Island Residents Association
Here is May 2007 Main Street WIRE interview with VanAmerongen in which she discusses the issue of affordable housing on Roosevelt Island.

UPDATE 4:51 - 1/10 Main Street Wire interview with VanAmerongen on Roosevelt Island Mitchell-Lama affordable housing:
On affordable housing in New York City as a whole: "It demands a greater level of creativity and commitment. But we are doing new affordable housing within the five boroughs every year... Almost everything we have done required weaving together various sources of financing. Affordable housing in New York City is difficult because of the lack of available land, the high cost of construction, and a number of other factors that make it more complicated. But it is something we are definitely committed to." She said she would look into whether there might be a way to use the $20 million mortgage pay-off Rivercross made to ESDC over a year ago for affordable housing on Roosevelt Island.

UPDATE 2/5 - If you wish to participate in a new poll on the topic of Roosevelt Island housing, here is the question: Should there be more subsidized "affordable housing" or "market rate" housing on Roosevelt Island"? The poll is located on right column page below Roosevelt Island Governing document links


RI 360 said...

Not sure how Bldgs 1 and 2 could be considered part of the affordable 40% if the rentals are not open to the public and available only through those employers.

Anonymous said...

What public purpose is served by piling more low-income housing on this postage stamp of an island? We may be near Manhattan, but we are across the river from several low-income housing projects in Ravenswood. How much low income population do you need in one local area? A good question to ask is why the state is grandstanding about 'saving' affordable housing when there are hundreds of vacant units throughout the Mitchell lama system? You should ask the question as to why those units are vacant before advocating the creation of more. Start with Co-op City.

Anonymous said...

DHCR's core business is tracking tenant eligibility in their portfolio of housing units state wide. That is there statutory purpose. That is why they have hundreds of employees. Why don't they just produce a spreadsheet listing all the Southtown units, the rent for each unit, the income of the occupants of each unit and the last column would indicate % of median income. Not hard. If the list does not exist, it should be created ASAP.

The expectation among the elected representatives is that this is a function best performed by the DHCR, not RIOC, since the tracking of housing units is DHCR's core purpose. Let's not leave this to RIOC since it will just take RIOC staff away from their core mission to operate and maintain the Island.

Ivana Mallen said...

I know this was 6 years ago but honestly your ignorance really is something else. You rich snobs want everything to be done your way...well news flash: you aren't the only freaking people on earth. Some of us don't make 100k a year and we don't need it to be happy or to survive. But I'd like to have the chance to be able to live on Roosevelt island, and the fact that I'm not a millionaire shouldn't be a reason why I can't afford to live there. You can have soho, midtown, Chelsea, TriBeCa and all the nice harbor spots on Long Island but please don't try to impose on the government wanting to add affordable housing. That is beyond selfish on your part.