NYCHA Tenants Battle Eviction

By Paul DeRienzo

West Side Congressman Jerry Nadler faced boos and catcalls September 6th at the Fulton Senior Center in Chelsea. Dozens of tenants of the Elliott-Chelsea and Fulton Houses jammed the meeting chanting “My house is not for sale,” and “no demolition.” 

Residents of the two housing projects located between Ninth and Tenth Avenues are enraged by Nadler’s support of a plan to demolish and rebuild the half dozen buildings and replacing the public housing with a luxury 3500-unit development. 

Jerry Nadler being heckled at Fulton Senior Center in Chelsea NYCHA meeting Photo credit: Marni Halasa

Three-quarters of the new units would rent at New York City’s astronomical market rate. One quarter would be reserved for low- and middle-income tenants. The current rent at the projects is less than $700 a month. Market rates in fast gentrifying Chelsea are well over $3000 a month.

The separate but adjacent NYCHA projects include Elliott-Chelsea Houses, two 21-story towers sitting in a grassy park setting, the first of their kind when built in 1947. They’re named after John Lovejoy Elliot who founded the Hudson Guild, an early advocacy group for poor New Yorkers. 

Nearby are four 1960s era 12 story buildings named after Robert Fulton, inventor of the steam boat. Both projects are administered as one unit and are home to about 2500 low income and elderly tenants living in 1000 units.

Among the famous residents born there are Whoopie Goldberg, and the multi-talented Wayans family. 

Nadler Heckled

On Wednesday a steady stream of tenants seized the open microphone part of the Community Board 4 monthly meeting expressing their opposition until Nadler arrived to speak about another subject. He seemed shocked by the angry response. 

The veteran congressman could be barely heard over the heckling while a nervous bodyguard hovered nearby as Nadler was met by chants of “traitor, traitor.” Leaving the meeting Nadler ran a gauntlet of enraged residents. 

West View News caught up with Nadler on the sidewalk, asked why the tenants were upset he replied, “because they don’t understand. The buildings they’re living in now are in terrible condition, the plan is to build new buildings in the empty space and then move them into the news buildings.”

Nadler was the only elected official at the meeting. Community activist and former candidate for city council on the west side Marni Halasa says that’s not unusual, because politicians “don’t want to be held accountable” for the privatization push.

Former Lower East Side council member and community activist Margarita Lopez was also at the CB4 meeting for another issue, opposing the city’s plan to move retirees to a private managed care health plan. Lopez was involved in building five low-income projects on the Lower East Side, she says the key ingredient is communication, “If that communication is not there,” Lopez added, “I don’t see how they can get to a place where they feel they’ll get back,” into their homes.

Pact-Rad’s Sad Survey Slammed

The drama began when The Related Companies, Inc. a multi-national real estate developer with offices as far flung as Shanghai, London and Abu Dhabi and its partner Essence Development came up with a proposal to demolish the projects. They would then rebuild and replace low income, city owned structures with a brand new 3500-unit complex, where 2,625 units, 75% of the total, would be market-rate rentals.

Related rationale is that the buildings are in poor condition and renovations would cost $1 billion. 

The development is part of a shift in how the city wants to finance its public housing. The largest public housing authority in North America, NYCHA began on the Lower East Side in 1934 when Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor and the depression saw mass evictions of destitute renters. The Authority has grown to house 360,000 New Yorkers in 335 public housing developments. NYCHA also administers the Section 8 program, subsidizing rent for another 235,000 New Yorkers.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD came up with an initiative to turn over much of the city’s public housing stock to private developers who would receive vouchers for poor tenants. 

The HUD initiative is called “Pact-Rad,” neatly packaging the tongue-twister full name of the initiative, the Permanent Affordability Commitment Together-Rental Assistance Demonstration.

More than 36,000 NYCHA apartments have either been converted or are on their way to being converted to Pact-Rad. Billions of dollars have been raised to repair city housing under the scheme according to officials.

Opposition to the conversion among tenants was sparked when NYCHA announced a “residents survey” last spring. Prepared with input from a not-for-profit headed by Howard Slatkin, a former executive at the Department of City Planning. 

Claiming an “unprecedented outreach effort,” NYCHA says more than half of tenants who took the survey approved their plan. But there have been doubts of the fairness of the survey from the start. The Legal Aid Society and Community Service Society denounced the vote, saying it was “in violation of principles,” and “misleading.”

Low Income Tenants Say They Belong in Chelsea

The coterie of tenants from the two projects rallying outside the CB4 meeting say they are being left out of decision making and that their needs, including preserving their community, are being bum-rushed in the haste to demolish their homes.

21 years ago, tenant Jacquelyn Lara says she was living in a homeless shelter, “when we moved in it looked like condos.” Another resident held an electric pink sign, “These buildings are not deteriorating, take a look yourselves,” it read. Several had t-shirts emblazoned No Demolitions, as a slogan. Lara says she can’t trust the city, “we were the last to know,” that there was a demolition plan.” Asked about the promise to rebuild, Lara scoffed, “that’s the promise, I don’t believe it.”

Lara admits the Chelsea neighborhood where the projects are located is “rich.” The federal government in the 1940s was already criticizing the Chelsea site as too expensive. But Lara fondly remembers the annual Pride Parade that passes by her home, and the feeling of belonging that brings. She adds, “I belong here too, even though I’m low income, I belong here.”

Whether NYCHA agrees is yet to be seen.

5 thoughts on “NYCHA Tenants Battle Eviction

    • Author gravatar

      This year, after living at Elliot Chelsea houses (NYCHA), for over 50 years , and raising two families, after retiring in 2008, I find myself at age 77, living in a homeless shelter in the Bronx. All of this happened after my wife sought a divorce from me, although I was a co-lessee of the apartment we shared with our daughter and my wife’s daughter & her partner (who both weren’t on the lease). My wife still now ( she filed in 7/2023), sought a remedy through state supervised mediation, through NYLAG, who was not able to get us to agree to a legal separation or divorce. As soon as NYLAG notified me that they couldn’t continue the mediation, my wife with NYCHA ‘s approval, extorted me to sign an eviction notice, NYCHA added my stepdaughter to the lease and took my name off and left me homeless, even though NYCHA had and has now dozens of empty apartments in Elliot Chelsea houses, that have been earmarked for RAD8 conversion FOR the developer by the name of Related and their co-conspirators Essense, and not counting the 6,000 (who’s keeping the count?) more other vacant apartments across the NYCHA EMPIRE in New York.

      Louis Anthony Bertot
      P.O. Box 7499
      New York, N.Y. 10116

    • Author gravatar

      If you want to see what happens when residents of a successful low income housing project are promised they can return to their homes and community when an ‘upgrade’ is complete, watch the documentary film RAZING LIBERTY CITY. Make sure every single promise is written in legal stone before you believe the hype.

    • Author gravatar

      Hi, I am a longtime advocate in the public housing realm. I got Supreme from Wu-Tang to support the residents in Chelsea specifically.
      I also brought the issue of the upcoming evictions to RFK for addressment.
      I was aware of Nadler’s problems and went to meet with Maloney during Nadler’s run and even went out on election day to the polls to try to swing the vote.
      Despite my long history of work on this issue I am being blackballed on all my work in activism including holding the only 3rd party / independent candidate forums in NYC.
      I also worked as an inspector for NYCHA and used this job to tell tenants about the upcoming evictions, but there was no mobilization. Single men have a difficult time getting into public housing so people that are in public housing are getting more than me.
      Also they have moved in many asians into the building and this is because due to language barriers they are more easy to be manipulated.

      But the racism surrounding the way that this issue is being addressed will only be addressed in the frameworks that the bourgeoise are are comfortable with expressing and there are outlets for addressing racial inequities which never focus on bringing me to any sort of equity or position of fairness.

      My activism is one based off of survival and grit. This is why you will never see my activism covered or acknowledged. Ironically this is why I am an activist in the first place. Although this generation refuses to recognize it, the activists that are the lowest regarded are the ones who will define the movement.

      • Author gravatar

        Well, given that West View has become a schill for libertarians such as RFK and Gary Null, it is unlikely they will pay much attention to single homeless men. Even if you can’t afford boots, go pull yourself up by your own.
        Libertarians believe it’s every man for himself and the hell with a caring, sharing sense of connection or community.

    • Author gravatar

      Some inspiration……!

      Recent release of a movie named Rabble Rousers… This is the type of tenacity it takes to keep one’s home in a pool of sharks…

Leave a Reply