NYCHA Residents in Chelsea Resist Demolition Plan That Could Displace Them

INDYPENDENT, Elsie Carson-Holt, August 19, 2023 

The 4,500 tenants at New York City’s Housing Authority’s Fulton and Chelsea-Elliott Houses face the recent announcement that their buildings will be demolished and rebuilt by The Related Companies and Essence Realty.

Jackie Lara describes coming to the Fulton Houses as “her best Christmas present.” She and her children moved out of a shelter into Fulton Houses, a public-housing development in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, just after New Years Eve in 2002. 

“My application [for public housing] came in after a year and a half of being in the shelter,” Lara says. “And I remember when they called me to come and see this apartment. I planted my seed here. This is my home.” 

Celines Mirandas is of the same mind. Her family has lived in the Chelsea-Elliott complex, about half a mile away, since 1975. “My mother  is at an age where she gets disoriented a lot. And she doesn’t know which direction to go … but when she’s in her neighborhood, she knows where she’s at. She knows it’s our home.” 

Lara and Mirandas, along with the about 4,500 other tenants who live in the Fulton and Chelsea-Elliott Houses, have witnessed the rapid gentrification of their neighborhood over the past two decades. The tenants are now experiencing an even larger change: the recent announcement by New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) that their buildings will be demolished and rebuilt by The Related Companies and Essence Realty. The mega-project would bring in 2,500 market-rate apartments plus commercial spaces, and the first time mixed-income buildings would be built on NYCHA land.

Origins of a Plan

In 2019, NYCHA initiated plans to privatize and demolish the Fulton ­Houses. The de Blasio administration began working with private ­developers to raze and rebuild two of the smallest buildings at Fulton Houses, using the program Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), which leases NYCHA land to private developers who would make 70% of the new apartments market rate, and 30% affordable housing. The money would allegedly then be used to finance repairs for the rest of Fulton ­Houses.