Monday, August 04, 2008

Air Lift for New Supermarkets?

In this morning's NY Sun, the paper reports about the potential sale and use of air rights currently under the aegis of NYCHA: "One of the last substantial pools of development rights in Manhattan — the equivalent in size to 11 Empire State Buildings — may find its way onto the open market over the next several years, compliments of the New York City Housing Authority.
The Housing Authority, which manages nearly 200,000 subsidized apartments in New York City, has plans to plug its $195 million budget gap by selling off development rights that are available at dozens of its affordable housing sites all over Manhattan, according to a report released by the office of the Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer."

BP Stringer is rightly concerned about how these air rights might be used-and potentially misused-since the rights are not subject to the city's ULURP procedures: "These rights could be worth "billions" of dollars, according to Mr. Stringer, who is concerned the vast amount of space will be developed in a fashion that neglects public input. He is seeking increased oversight by elected officials in the approaching sale of the development rights."

Oversight is badly needed; and the use of these development rights to promote the building of new supermarkets needs to be made part of the agenda-particularly since the neighborhoods in question are some of those that the city has identified as being understored for food stores: "According to the report, 85% of the Housing Agency's unused development rights are spread across four districts: East Harlem, the Lower East Side, Central Harlem, and the Upper West Side."

Since the mayor controls the NYCHA board, the Bloomberg administration needs to step up and include the NYCHA development opportunity as part of its supermarket initiative. Action is needed in the short term, particularly in East Harlem where markets are disappearing rapidly. The ball is in the mayor's court here.