Jul 1, 2022
Op-ed: Stop fighting Manhattan’s first LGBTQ-friendly senior affordable housing development
BY KAREN HAYCOX
For Pride Month I prayed that we may finally move forward on construction of Manhattan’s first LGBTQ-friendly senior affordable housing development.
Construction of Haven Green, stalled in the courts by opponents since the summer of 2019, will provide 123 homes affordable to low-income seniors in Little Italy, at a time when city rents are rising at the highest rate in recent history. Thirty-seven homes will be reserved for seniors experiencing homelessness.
It will include nearly 16,000 square feet of publicly accessible garden space, which was designed using a community engagement process, and the preservation—via an innovative deal confirmed with City Council in the fall of 2021—of a neighboring 40-year-old affordable rental building. Community engagement has already resulted in the near doubling of green space.
Safety and affordability
Upon opening, Haven Green will offer the community flexible activity space, on-site and community services, and affordable housing development and preservation services. Uniquely for Manhattan to date, it will provide an opportunity for our LGBTQ elders, who are at increased risk of poverty, discrimination and violence: Nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ adults ages 65 and older live at or below the federal poverty level. In the bisexual and trans community, nearly 1 in 2 or at or below the federal poverty level. Older LGBTQ adults in senior living facilities are especially vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.
Beyond being a beacon of inclusiveness, affordability and safety, Haven Green will be built to passive house standards to maximize energy efficiency, reduce emissions and maintain a healthy living environment.
Opponents of Haven Green—who understandably love Elizabeth Street Garden, the privately controlled space on city-owned land opened to the public only once plans for affordable housing were announced—endorse a revisionist version of the complex history of the site.
Ultimately, it is a history rooted in a not-in-my-backyard philosophy. Opponents claim support for affordable housing as long as it is built elsewhere; in this case their recommended site is on the west side of Community Board 2, where—coincidentally (?)—all the recently constructed affordable homes are. Notably, only 118 affordable homes have been built in Community Board 2 in nearly a decade.
The number of apartments available to rent in our city is a complex story of intense demand and inadequate supply. Our population has grown by more than 629,000 residents in the past decade, but we only created 185,000 new multifamily units—only 0.06% of which exist in Community Board 2.
We must do more
Haven Green will deliver 16,000 square feet of year-round, publicly accessible green space and 123 desperately needed homes affordable to low-income seniors. But it is not enough. We must do more. We support the recently approved responsible development of the proposed alternate site as well. It is not either-or. It is both-and.