From the NY Times:
now, for the first time in its 75-year history, the New York City Housing Authority wants to knock down an entire high-rise complex, Prospect Plaza in Brooklyn — a move that has surprised and angered a number of former tenants and advocates for low-income housing.
In the past decade, the authority has chosen to renovate rather than tear down its aging housing stock, often at great expense. Its decision to demolish Prospect Plaza was not the result of a sweeping policy shift, but of the failure of a renovation project that became bogged down in years of administrative, financial and legal problems.
Prospect Plaza — three 12- to 15-story towers in Brownsville — is plagued by neither despair nor poverty: It has been vacant since 2003, when the last tenants were moved out with the promise they could return to refurbished apartments.
One recent evening, the sole occupant of Prospect Plaza — many of the windows on the upper floors have been removed, giving the buildings a hollowed-out look — was a security guard in a ground-floor office. The window frames and doorways on each tower’s bottom three floors were sealed shut with cinderblocks or metal gates. The flagpole was flagless, but an old wooden sign remained: “Welcome to Prospect Plaza.”
Agency officials say they want to tear down the 35-year-old buildings and erect new apartments in their place. Officials initially planned to leave the towers standing and reconfigure the apartments, by eliminating some units to create bigger living rooms and bathrooms, but those plans were scrapped by the authority’s new leadership because demolition made better financial sense.
Ilene Popkin, the agency’s assistant deputy general manager for development, said it would cost $481,000 to renovate each of the 269 apartments. Demolishing the structures and building 361 new units would cost $381,700 per unit. Ms. Popkin and other officials said the three buildings had deteriorated from vandalism and exposure to the elements, and were out of context with the neighborhood. The new apartments — including public and private housing, not only for the poor but also for low- and moderate-income families — are likely to be built in low-rise buildings.
Prospect Plaza originally included four towers housing 1,200 people. One was torn down in 2005; the plan was to use that space for a new community center, shops and additional housing. But today, the building’s old footprint is just a fenced-off lot.