Building Proposed for West 96th Street Gets Mixed Reviews

Project would include mixed-income housing and "micro" studio units

25 Oct 2019 | 09:27

A plan to construct a 23-story building on West 96th Street, which would include 68 affordable housing units, was met with mixed reviews when it was presented to the Land Use and Housing Committees of Community Board 7 on Oct. 16th.

Fetner Properties and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) are proposing an as-of-right, mixed-use project that will combine 266 West 96th Street with two privately-owned parcels to create new mixed-income housing and community facility space.

The proposed project includes 80 "micro" studio units and 91 regular-sized one and two bedroom units. Micro units are typically 350 square feet or less.

Affordable Housing Criteria

Eligibility for affordable housing is based on "area median income," or AMI, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The 2019 AMI for the New York City region is $96,100 for a three-person family.

The new affordable housing will serve very low- to middle-income New Yorkers and will be set aside for households earning up to 50, 70 and 130 percent of the area median income (AMI).

“We are pleased to work with the city to provide new, much-needed affordable housing in the Upper West Side community,” Hal Fetner, president and CEO of Fetner Properties said. “We value good communication with our neighbors and always do our best to work with members of the local communities in which we are developing new projects.”

The proposed project is required to undergo the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) because it includes a disposition of city-owned land.

The Salvation Army, located at 268 West 96th, would acquire a portion of the community facility floor area that would be developed as part of the project.

This proposal is entirely as-of-right under city zoning regulations and includes no requests for changes to density, height, or other zoning rules.

The proposed project was accepted into the Brownfield Cleanup Program; Fetner Properties will be required to remediate the development site under the oversight of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Criticisms and Concerns

Co-Chairs of the Housing and Land Use Committee, Louisa Craddock and Page Cowley, said that while these micro units will be furnished, they simply would not provide adequate space for seniors, who often have walkers, wheelchairs or other equipment to help them with their daily life, so they need room. Living in an apartment that’s less than 350 feet would not benefit them.

Furthermore, they said the micro units are planned to have Murphy beds, which fold into the wall. Craddock and Crowley agreed that some seniors would not have the strength to fold a bed in and out of the wall each day.

“I can’t see seniors taking them (bed) down every night,” Craddock said. “It seemed to us that basically what they’re doing is providing housing for people just getting out of college,” Craddock added.

Cowley noted that some people are concerned about how much it would cost for someone on a low income to live in this affordable housing.

Despite such criticisms and concerns, “the good news is the project is still on track,” Cowley said. “But I think as times are getting harder for people, the wish is that there could be more affordable housing.”

Elected officials also weighed in on the project. Sarah Crean, a spokesman for Council Member Helen Rosenthal, said Rosenthal is always in favor of affordable housing, as long as it appeals to people with different income brackets.

“I think she is generally supportive, but what she is going to continue to push on and is the most interested in is how much affordable housing and the various levels of affordable housing,” Crean said.

The developer will appear before the committee again Nov. 20 and before the full board Dec. 3

The project is anticipated to be complete by 2022.