Wyckoff Gardens Stakeholder Committee Letter to NYCHA

Friday, September 02, 2016

New York City Housing Authority

250 Broadway New York, NY 10007

To the attention of:

Sideya Sherman, David Pristin, Nicole Ferreira, Brian Honan

The Wyckoff Gardens Stakeholder Committee is writing to express its questions and concerns regarding the Request for Proposals issued for the Next Generation NYCHA infill plan. We are concerned that although NYCHA officials have met with residents and community based organizations on numerous occasions, NYCHA – via its RFP and otherwise – has yet to answer or address many of the most important questions and issues that have been raised by residents throughout this process.

In advance of our meeting on September 14, we have highlighted a few core concerns below, and request that NYCHA evaluate and provide responses as soon as possible, both in writing and at our in-person meeting. We have also enclosed a table that addresses additional concerns of members of the Stakeholder Committee, which we request that NYCHA evaluate soon. Finally, as described more fully below, we request that NYCHA agree to:

(1) Rescind, amend, and reissue the RFP so as to require developers to more fully respond to community priorities and to provide a clear percentage weight to those priorities within the selection process, and

(2) Finalize and enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Stakeholder Committee – the agreement NYCHA has already worked on extensively with Wyckoff Gardens residents, FAC, and FUREE – before any evaluation of proposals begins.

(3) Provide the stakeholder committee with all records (audio and written) of attendance and correspondence at the Wyckoff Community Engagement meetings held so far from 2015 until the present.

Thank you for your attention, and we look forward to discussing these matters with you on the 14th.

Sincerely,
The Wyckoff Gardens Stakeholder Committee

CORE CONCERNS OF THE WYCKOFF GARDENS STAKEHOLDER COMMITTEE

1. How will the existing residents of Wyckoff Gardens benefit from the NextGen development? Although the creation of more affordable housing and the overall financial health of NYCHA are important concerns, the quality of life and living conditions of current residents of Wyckoff Gardens are no less important. Despite this, NYCHA has failed to answer many basic questions about how current Wyckoff Gardens will benefit from this proposed development. In particular:

(1) What share of the funds received from the developer will be committed to capital improvements at Wyckoff Gardens? Residents have asked that it be, at minimum, a majority (at least 60%) of all funds received.

(2) What is the timeline for completing necessary repairs at Wyckoff Gardens, and how will this relate to the timeline for the construction of new housing?  Residents would like to ensure that Wyckoff repairs needing no more than 1 ½ years to complete are addressed before NYCHA issues the Certificate of Occupancy to the developer.  Additionally, residents would like a clear and explicit commitment from NYCHA to address further repair needs at Wyckoff Gardens in a timely manner suitable to the Stakeholder Committee with a specific timeline for each repair.

(3) Will NYCHA be able to create a reserve fund for future capital improvements at Wyckoff Gardens? NYCHA has previously stated that certain regulations may prevent NYCHA from creating such a fund, but it has failed to offer details about these supposed barriers, despite repeated requests from residents for more information.

(4) Will Wyckoff Gardens residents be given a preference for any share of the affordable units? Although we understand that current NYCHA households and households on the waitlist for Conventional Public Housing and Section 8 Housing will be given a preference for 25% of the affordable units, we feel it is critical that Wyckoff Gardens residents receive a preference for some meaningful share of those units. Without such a preference, current Wyckoff Gardens residents will be forced to compete with hundreds, if not thousands of other applicants for the new apartments being built right in their backyard.

2. How will the community’s concerns and priorities be given weight in the developer selection process? Although we appreciate that NYCHA has conceptually agreed to give weight to resident preferences in the process, we are concerned that the RFP fails to set forth how such preferences will be given weight. We are especially concerned that:

(1) The Competitive Selection Criteria portion of the RFP1 includes a reference to the NYCHA Community Principles document and states that “Preference will be given to Proposals that align with the findings from the resident engagement process described in these summaries,” yet effectively allocates a weight of 0% to those Principles by assigning a weight of 20% to each of the five selection criteria. Although we understand that some portions of the Community Principles are addressed by the five other selection criteria, Community Principles related to Affordability, Safety & Security, and Sustainability & Resilience are not clearly addressed by the other sections. As a result, it is unclear how, if at all NYCHA will give weight to these considerations, including deep and long-term affordability – a core concern of Wyckoff Gardens residents.

(2) The portion of the RFP describing the Submission Requirements2 enumerates the specific sections that proposals must include3, yet fails to require developers to provide a narrative description of how.

(3) The Community Principles themselves exclude a critical point to which NYCHA tentatively agreed in its discussions with Wyckoff Gardens residents, FAC, and FUREE: competitive scoring of applicants based on “the inclusion and strength of a Resident Hiring Plan for providing training and employment opportunities to NYCHA residents during construction and post construction.”4 Although the RFP addresses resident hiring in the section pertaining to Additional Regulations,5 hiring is not addressed in the selection criteria.
Because of these significant omissions, the Stakeholder Committee requests that NYCHA rescind, amend, reissue and extend the deadline for the RFP so as to (1) include adherence to the Community Principles, including the provisions related to Affordability, Safety & Security, and Sustainability & Resilience, as a selection criterion with a specific weight; (2) require developers to provide written descriptions of how they intend to address all of the Community Principles; and (3) include a Resident Hiring Plan as a weighted selection criterion, as described above. Without such amendments, it will not be possible for NYCHA and the Stakeholder Group to effectively evaluate and weigh developers’ plans on many of the issues of greatest concern to the community.

3. What role will Wyckoff Gardens residents and the Stakeholder Committee have in the developer selection process? We understand that though conversations with Wyckoff Gardens residents, Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), NYCHA has tentatively agreed to allow Wyckoff Gardens resident leaders “meaningful input on the selection of a developer within parameters allowed by law … consistent with the role the Seward Park Task Force played in the Seward Park RFP process.”6 We are encouraged that NYCHA has made this commitment. However, we remain troubled that NYCHA decided to issue the RFP before the agreement with Wyckoff Gardens residents, FAC and FUREE could be finalized, and issued the RFP without permitting residents an opportunity to review and comment on it – and we remain in the dark about the specific process NYCHA envisions for residents to provide “meaningful input.” We are especially concerned in light of language in the RFP that states that “NYCHA and HPD will select Applicants,”7 without any reference to the Stakeholder Committee. We feel it is critical that NYCHA clarify the role of the Stakeholder Committee in developer selection and enter into a detailed Memorandum of Agreement with the Stakeholder Committee, which includes the residents who engaged with NYCHA over the summer before the formation of the Committee. That MOA should include the items previously discussed with residents, FAC and FUREE, as well as detailed explanations of both (1) the processes through which the Stakeholder Committee will provide input and (2) the weight such input will be given in the selection of the developer. We request that the MOA between NYCHA and the Stakeholder Committee be entered into as soon as possible, and before any review of responses to the RFP begins. As noted in our previous email to NYCHA, we further request that NYCHA’s written Negotiation Letter to the developer, “set[ting] forth certain information regarding the Project and procedures that will form the basis for such negotiation,”8 include a requirement that the developer engage directly with Wyckoff Gardens residents (via the Stakeholder Committee) as part of the negotiation. We believe that these commitments are crucial steps in establishing a meaningfully collaborative relationship between NYCHA and Wyckoff Gardens residents in the developer selection process.

4. How will NYCHA improve transparency and engagement with residents for the remainder of this process? We are concerned about NYCHA’s refusal to provide clear records of the concerns raised by residents at meetings about this project hosted by NYCHA since October of last year. Such records would enable the Stakeholder Committee and others to more effectively evaluate the extent to which NYCHA has evaluated and responded to resident concerns – a crucial component of building residents’ trust in the process. In addition, under 24 CFR § 970.9(a), NYCHA is legally obligated to evaluate residents’ written comments (including this letter) and to forward all such comments to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We reiterate our request that NYCHA provide records of all questions and concerns raised by residents in meetings about this project to date. To improve transparency going ahead, we request that NYCHA commit to responding in writing to all future questions raised by the Stakeholder Committee or other Wyckoff Gardens residents, and adopt the practices related to resident engagement and record-keeping set forth in the tentative agreement reached with residents, FAC and FUREE.9 Specifically, these practices should be included in the Memorandum of Agreement between NYCHA and the Stakeholder Committee described above.

1 “Next Generation NYCHA: NextGen Neighborhoods Sites in Brooklyn and Manhattan – Request for Proposals,” New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development and the New York City Housing Authority (June 30, 2016), p.21-23.

2 Beginning on p.25. the developer will meet the goals outlined in the Community Principles document. It is unclear how NYCHA can possibly evaluate developers’ strategies for meeting the Community Principles if developers are not being asked to respond to them in any way.

3 RFP p. 26-32.

4 “Wyckoff Gardens Community Process and Priorities for Development-Established Commitments Between NYCHA, Wyckoff Gardens Residents, Fifth Avenue Committee, and FUREE,” p.3.

5 RFP p.18.

6 “Wyckoff Gardens Community Process and Priorities,” p.1.

7 RFP p.2.

8 RFP p.24.

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