July 30, 2022

By Lois Weiss

After nearly 50 years in the hands of New York City, four small buildings on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 22nd Street in Chelsea are being demolished and rebuilt into an affordable cooperative with more than twice as many apartments and a retail store.

“We are relieved and happy that this day is finally here,” said Keyla Espinal at the July 25 groundbreaking. Espinal grew up in the small buildings and over the years, rallied the community and advocated for their redevelopment.

She added, “Our family is excited to come home as homeowners in our own community. It’s a victory not only for the residents of the buildings, but also the whole neighborhood, which will see this corner of Chelsea transformed into something we can all take pride in for many years to come.”

The run down walk-up properties at 201-207 Seventh Ave. were previously taken by the city through the in-rem process for non-payment of taxes in the mid-1970s. But in the 1990s, the prior owner illegally sold the buildings to another entity. The city finally filed a lawsuit and nullified that deed in 2005 to regain possession.

Now, the 14 rental apartments and townhouses will be demolished and replaced with one new nine-story building designed by Amie Gross Architects and holding 26 modern co-op apartments and ground floor retail

The project is being developed by Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) through the Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program (ANCP), which is administered through the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

ANCP previously selected AAFE as the qualified developer to transform the distressed city-owned buildings. 

At the July 25 groundbreaking ceremonies, AAFE Co-Executive Director Thomas Yu said, “Our team is looking forward to a continued partnership with building residents and the Chelsea community to revitalize this corner of the neighborhood.”

Financing includes a construction loan from Enterprise Community Partners, in collaboration with the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) and subsidies through NYC HPD’s Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program. Additional funding will come from the sales proceeds as well as the Manhattan Borough President and sponsor equity. The total development cost is $25.7 million.

“This development is helping 26 families achieve the American Dream of becoming homeowners,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “Manhattan’s average monthly rent hitting $5,000 underscores the urgent need for more affordable housing like 201-207 7th Avenue.”

The properties were transferred from the city to an entity “Restoring Communities HDFC” at the closing of the nearly $25 million construction loan in July. When completed, the new building will in turn be transferred to a newly formed Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC), owned and managed by the residents.

Five of the current residents were temporarily relocated to new apartments and being provided co-op homeownership training by the city. When the building is ready in a few years, they will be able to buy their new apartments for the low price of either $2,500 or $250, if they income qualify.

The remaining 21 units will be marketed through the City’s Housing Connect lottery and are expected to have sales prices affordable to households earning 130% of AMI.

HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. added, “Through our Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program (ANCP), we’re thrilled to provide deeply affordable homeownership opportunities to both new and existing residents in Chelsea.”

Adolfo Carrión Jr. speaking at groundbreaking

Over many years, former City Council member Corey Johnson, current Council Member Erik Bottcher and local Community Board 4 all advocated for the tear down and redevelopment of the eyesores, along with the residents that included Espinal.

The architects shepherded the project through the many months of the city’s uniform land use review process. Amie Gross AIA, President of Amie Gross Architects, explained the building design was inspired by both the community residents and local architecture. “Together with the input of Manhattan CB4 and AAFE, we designed this building to honor its context, while contributing to a more inclusive and equitable urban environment,” she said.

The architects are also collaborating with the contractors so as to preserve decorative elements from the buildings, which date to about 1920. If it can be saved, a cast iron Italianate entrance now located on West 22nd Street will also be installed as part of the new building.

The project will have a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units as well as a 3,500 square foot ground floor retail space which will be leased to commercial tenants selected with input from the residents.

A shared terrace and recreational space on the eighth floor will have views looking north and south along Seventh Avenue. Other amenities include a shared courtyard, a laundry room, a bike room and elevator. Sustainable features will include energy efficient mechanical systems, natural daylight in corridors and energy saving thermal insulation.

Demolition will take place over the summer with construction slated to begin early next year and completion by 2025.