These Staten Island NYCHA residents are ‘excited’ for an overhaul renovation to apartments

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — West Brighton Houses residents buzzed with excitement filling the meeting room as they prepared to meet the team that will be carrying out $100 million in capital repairs, a complete renovation of their complex.

In a few years, residents of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) development will have all new kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, windows, paint, doors and more in their apartments. The renovation will also involve an overhaul of the buildings’ infrastructure, including building security, heating and cooling, water and plumbing and ventilation. To top it off, the project will improve public spaces, community safety, landscaping and building entryways.

This will be the first Staten Island development to be converted under PACT.

NYCHA recently announced that BFC Partners Development LLC, CB Emmanuel Realty LLC and non-profit organization Catholic Homes New York will work together to repair 574 apartments across the West Brighton Houses’ 14 buildings, which are home to more than 1,400 residents.

The funding for the much-needed repairs has been allocated through NYCHA’s PACT (Permanent Affordability Commitment Together) program, which is the agency’s version of the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program created for housing authorities to access federal capital to improve developments and ensure their affordability.

Under PACT, NYCHA establishes public-private partnerships with private developers, property management companies and social service providers, to carry out much-needed overhaul renovations of their developments. They also convert the properties from Section 9 (public housing) to project-based Section 8, the Housing Choice Voucher program.

NYCHA remains the owner of the buildings, but the PACT program allows day-to-day management of the complexes to be handed over to private companies. Pinnacle City Living will serve as West Brighton I and II’s property manager after they are converted, according to NYCHA.

NYCHA West Brighton Houses could be selected to undergo more than $100M in repairs

 

Pictured, a map of the West Brighton Houses, a NYCHA owned and managed property. (Screenshot from NYCHA’s “Planning for PACT West Brighton I and II” presentation)

A key part of PACT’s conversion process is being resident-inclusive, not only to to keep them abreast of the updates, but it also gives them a seat at the table to make decisions and provide input at each step of the way.

TENANT ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT RAVES OVER PACT

West Brighton Houses Tenant Association President Shekina Butler has been very pleased with the experience working with NYCHA over the past year and a half.

“It’s been amazing. It really has, I can actually say. No real complaints. When I ask for things to get done, things are getting done in a timely manner, especially since we’re out of COVID now,” Butler told the Advance/SILive.com.

The process began in fall of 2021 with a thorough resident engagement period.

A review committee comprised of West Brighton residents has since made major decisions, with the support of a technical adviser, Censere Consulting, such as selecting the companies and organizations on the PACT team that will handle the various phases of the conversion.

The review team receives the necessary training to navigate each step, allowing for a transparent partnership on the project.

“I have a consulting team that goes over everything with a fine tooth comb with myself and the board members. Everything, everything, every aspect of this has been brought to my attention before it’s put out to the public, before it’s put out to the rest of the team. We all sit down and step-by-step, if I don’t understand something, it’s explained to me in terms that I can understand,” Butler explained.

Butler and the residents are excited to see the many improvements — from the renovated apartments to modernizing severely outdated electrical and plumbing infrastructure to better security measures — they’ve been asking to come to fruition for many years finally happen.

“We had our first big community meeting to introduce them to our new PACT partners, and it was amazing, absolutely amazing. We had a room full, residents were just excited,” the tenant association president recalled. “They had their concerns, but they were more excited about hearing the changes that are going to take place, especially when it comes to getting the upgrade, but also more so safety and security.”

“The cameras on the floor would be a great improvement for us to feel more secure in our apartments and in our building. And then new locks on the bottom floors, to make sure that entryways are nice and safe for all of us,” Butler added.

However, there have been some skeptics of PACT, people concerned about the nature of the public-private partnerships and if the conversions to private management are in the best interest of residents.

Besides being pleased with West Brighton’s experience with PACT so far, Butler has also met other tenant association presidents of developments that have been converted, and toured some of the properties.

“I’ve been to three other developments. It’s been nothing but great and exciting. It’s just been amazing. In the beginning, I’m not going to lie, there was fear,” she said.

NYCHA West Brighton Houses was selected to undergo more than $100M in repairs

 

Pictured, Baychester Houses, a NYCHA property in the Bronx that recently received a complete overhaul with external and internal renovations and upgrades through NYCHA’s PACT (Permanent Affordability Commitment Together) program. (Screenshotted from NYCHA’s “Planning for PACT” presentation)

One rumor, for example, was that residents were evicted during the conversion process, which Butler said was misleading.

“Once social services is in place, social services helps you get through every aspect of making sure that you’re able to get your rent paid and helping with budgeting financial aspects of your life, to make sure that you’re not just being put out on the street,” she explained. “I heard nothing but great experiences from other tenant association presidents and other developments that have already gone PACT.”

Butler suggested that residents in other NYCHA complexes that the agency is looking to convert keep an open mind in the process and “just give it a shot.”

NYCHA EXECUTIVE REFLECTS ON PACT

Since launching in 2016, nearly 16,000 NYCHA apartment units have been converted under PACT, meaning financial responsibility has been transferred to the public-private partners. Of the nearly 16,000, renovations of 5,800 units have been completed, according to Jonathan Gouveia, executive vice president of real estate development for NYCHA.

Several projects are expected to be complete this year.

“This year is going to be a big year for construction completions. We have Hope Gardens, Twin Parks, Highbridge Franklin reaching completion, and most likely the Manhattan bundle, which is 17 developments all over primarily the upper part of Manhattan; but there’s also one at East 28th Street. So when all of those are complete throughout various points this year, the number of completions will hit about 9,500,” Gouveia told the Advance/SILive.com.

The program has grown exponentially, with 20,000 units currently in pre-development or the resident engagement phase.

Gouveia said one aspect he is particularly proud of is the constant evolution of PACT.

“When I started four years ago, there was a lot of skepticism and concern about what [PACT] meant. We’ve been very serious about resident engagement and making sure people knew what we were doing and being transparent with people,” he said.

Gouveia noted that the West Brighton project has involved the “most intensive version of community engagement that we have done to date.”

“So, it is exciting both to see the numbers that we are achieving in terms of making progress to our commitment, but also just the relationship with the residents and how they’re getting involved,” Gouveia said.

Over the next year, the PACT team for West Brighton will conduct intensive environmental and building investigations to get a sense of the full scope of work needed in the development. The team and NYCHA will continue to meet with residents providing updates and seeking feedback. BFC Partners, CB Emmanuel Realty will lead the general construction, both in design and logistics to carry out tenant-in

33-place renovations. Catholic Homes of New York will handle social services, such as assisting residents transfer from section 9 to section 8 vouchers.

According to Gouveia, the renovations typically take approximately two years to complete.