Hell’s Kitchen Residents Upset By City’s Change of Plans for Housing Units



An MTA-owned parking lot at 806 9th Ave. now slated for low-income residential building. Photo by Sirena He

Hell’s Kitchen residents debated the city’s newly proposed supportive housing project at a community board meeting last month. What was initially planned to be affordable housing for the middle class has now been slated to house some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, and some neighborhood residents are upset.

“We found out through a press release,” said Jesse Bodine, district manager of Manhattan Community Board 4.

The supportive housing project, The Lirio, will be built on 806 9th Ave., which is currently a parking lot owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The new residential building is part of the years-long development in the area since the rezoning of Hudson Yards began in 2005. During the Community Board 4 meeting, Hudson Companies Inc., Housing Works and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development gave a presentation about their plan to turn the lot into 112 units of low-income housing and supportive housing for long term HIV/AIDS survivors. Residents said they felt blindsided by the decision, as the lot was previously promised by the city in 2009 to be set aside for median income housing. 

“We tried to work with local city officials after we found out to resolve the discrepancy, but unfortunately, it never turned into anything,” said Bodine. 

At the meeting, several residents pointed out the city’s lack of transparency about the plans for the MTA lot. Joe Restuccia, a longtime resident of Hell’s Kitchen and Clinton Housing Development Director, said that from 2013 to 2019, community members were led to believe that the lot was still intended for middle class housing, until they were notified of the change from a press release from the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, Hudson Companies, and Housing Works in 2019.

“I try to be as informed as I can about the neighborhood, and I have not heard anything about there being supportive housing here,” said David Chacin, a Hell’s Kitchen resident for nearly 10 years who works at Cantina, a restaurant and bar adjacent to the parking lot.  

Chacin said he is concerned about the impact of the project on the neighborhood. “I am very supportive of low-income housing, but what will be the toll on small businesses and residents? The community here cleaned up this neighborhood because we care about it. It wasn’t done by the city, and now they are taking advantage of our efforts.” 

The Community Board 4 zone, which includes Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Hudson Yards, parts of the Garment District and Meatpacking District, currently has 24 supportive housing units, more than half of which are located in Hell’s Kitchen. The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence, a supportive housing unit for long-term HIV/AIDS survivors, located at 475 West 57th St. is only a few blocks away from the proposed location of The Lirio. 

But there are residents who want to open Hell’s Kitchen up to at-risk groups. “Middle class people can afford to live somewhere else, but homeless people can’t. I hope they will get help to be integrated into the neighborhood,” said Marie Lledo, a Hell’s Kitchen resident and hostess at Medi Wine Bar, located directly in front of the MTA lot. 

But Chacin is upset by the city’s plans and the lack of outreach to the community about the new housing proposal. “The city had the means to communicate, but they didn’t. They need to look beyond public housing and look at how it impacts the community,” he said. 

The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University published “The Impact of Supportive Housing on Surrounding Neighborhoods: Evidence from New York City,” a report that looked at supportive housing from 1974 to 2005. According to the study, property values in neighborhoods surrounding the supportive housing units did not decrease significantly, but remained within comparative range to surrounding neighborhoods without supportive housing. 

Charles McNally, director of external affairs at the Furman Center and former management specialist at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, agrees with the report. “The reality is that a lot of this is shaped by market forces and by where there’s a hole in the affordable housing industry,” he said. “They build where there’s available land and that is in short supply in the city. They can’t build median income housing in an area with low income tax credits.”

Housing Preservation and Development, Hudson Companies, and Housing Works have not responded to The Midtown Gazette’s request for comment. Their supportive housing proposal must pass through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, followed by a community board vote, before construction can begin. The city’s goal is to get the proposal approved this fall, and have the building completed and opened in 2023.

Bodine hopes that the plan could be amended to include housing for middle class residents. “Our issue is about working with the community,” he said. “If you’re going to make those deals and then renege on that deal later, you’re creating a very stark, have and have not environment in the neighborhood.”