Red Hook Houses residents demand NYCHA slow down construction project

RED HOOK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- There are calls from a community to stop a construction project at a housing development in Brooklyn that has already closed off access to ball fields, playgrounds and benches in the middle of a pandemic.

But residents of the Red Hook Houses living in the middle of a construction site, surrounded by 39 acres of metal fencing and mountains of soil with courtyards turned into mazes, say it is also raising other serious health concerns.

They're thrilled that their neighborhood will be transformed, but they say the New York City Housing Authority is trying to do too much too fast.

The Red Hook Houses is the largest public housing complex in the largest borough in New York, 32 brick buildings just blocks from the Brooklyn waterfront.

But it was built in a flood zone, where Superstorm Sandy knocked out power and water service for months.

After eight years, NYCHA is rebuilding the entire infrastructure. On Monday, some residents lost water service for most of the day.

"They didn't have to do this all at once," resident Vanessa McKnight said. "Nobody is denying that it will be better when it's done, but don't kill us on the way to getting there."

When it's complete, the new Red Hook Houses will be a monument to public housing in the 21st Century. But that won't happen before 2023, and residents say three years is a long time.

"Now is the time to really hold them accountable on the ground and make some changes," Brooklyn City Councilman Carlos Menchaca said.

The Housing Authority claims they already made changes, saying in a statement, "Red Hook Houses, due to its size and complexity, poses unique challenges. As a result, we phased the construction into smaller order to mitigate the impacts." (Full text below)

Residents say that's obviously not good enough. Roughly 450 trees were removed, and their grounds have become a dust bowl.

They want to halt construction until NYCHA comes up with a compromise.

Here is the full text of the NYCHA statement, issued by Deputy Press Secretary Rochel Leah Goldblatt:

"The construction NYCHA is doing at Red Hook Houses is the culmination of years of meetings with residents, community leaders and other stakeholders. Since 2014, a year before the Authority received the FEMA funds in December 2015, we have fully incorporated resident input at every stage. We worked with seniors to find a location out of the flood zone for a new senior center and fully renovate it, participated in over 182 meetings related to the investment of the $550 million FEMA funds, including design charrettes hosted at the local community center and schools, and we posted over 25,000 flyers specific to this project and the impacts of construction. Red Hook Houses, due to its size and complexity, poses unique challenges. As a result, We phased the construction into smaller projects, such as the senior center and retail stores renovations, in order to mitigate the impacts, and then followed up with full roof replacements at all residential buildings. The remaining work can now continue without the additional impact of the completed work. We understand the impacts of this investment are inconvenient to residents, but we are thankful for the $550 million our elected officials secured for these critical infrastructure upgrades, including new heat and hot water systems and full backup generators, to protect the residents and these buildings for the next generation of NYCHA residents."

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