A long-vacant MTA parking lot in Hell’s Kitchen is officially set to become affordable housing after the City Council voted to approve construction on The Lirio project — and Stile’s Farmers Market will be offered the retail space at the site.
“My administration is committed to making New York a ‘City of Yes’ for all New Yorkers,” said Mayor Eric Adams in a press release announcing the move. “Working closely with our partners in the City Council and members of the community, we are delivering 112 of the affordable and supportive homes we need to tackle our affordable housing crisis, all with access to public transportation and economic opportunity.”
“I’m proud that this 100-percent affordable housing project includes desperately needed apartments for a wide range of incomes, including supportive housing for long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS as well as for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers,” added District 3 City Council Member Erik Bottcher. “We also secured a commitment to offer below-market-rate ground-floor commercial space for Stiles Farmers Market, a beloved local grocer who lost his previous space years ago.” Stiles Farmers Market, which maintains a location at W36th Street, previously had a store on W52nd Street that closed in 2019 after a building next door needed to be demolished.
The nine-story, mixed-use building at 806 9th Avenue, will house an MTA office, retail and residential space and has been in consideration since as far back as 2009, when the city formed the Western Rail Yards agreement, promising to build below-market apartments at the site as a part of the 2005 Hudson Yards rezoning. The deal required more affordable housing be added into the area for applicants making up to 165 percent of the median area income, or approximately $137,940 for one person.
A decade later, the city changed course, and announced they would be shifting the majority allocation of the 112 units as supportive housing for New Yorkers battling mental health issues and substance abuse — with a preference for long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS to occupy 59 of the units. Eight units are allocated for formerly homeless tenants and 44 units are reserved for households making between 30 and 120 percent of the area median income.
Members from Manhattan Community Board 4 and several local block associations were unhappy with the move, arguing that the middle-income housing they were promised had been severely downsized and that HIV/AIDS social service organization Housing Works, selected to partner with developer Hudson Companies, was not up to the challenge of managing the needs of building tenants.
“Not only is the community not getting the moderate-to-middle income housing it was promised, there are serious concerns about the non-profit organization chosen to run the low-income and supportive housing site at West 54th and 9th Avenue. Better known for its thrift stores, Housing Works has never managed a supportive housing facility of the size it intends to run at W54th and 9th Avenue. In fact, most social services research to date suggests we need to create smaller — not larger — buildings with fewer residents who need supportive housing in order to deliver the best care in a setting that integrates well with the neighborhood,” wrote Christine Gorman, president of the West 55th Street Block Association and Aleta Lafargue, president of the Manhattan Plaza Tenant Association in an op-ed for W42ST.
Reacting to the news, Gorman told us: “I wish all 112 apartments at West 54th and 9th had been set aside for working and middle-class families, which is what we were promised in 2009. But I want to thank Community Board 4 and Council Member Erik Bottcher for getting us at least 44 units of permanently affordable housing for working- and middle-class families. And I look forward to welcoming all the residents of the Lirio to the neighborhood.”
Others looked forward to the project’s completion, pointing out that any additional affordable housing in the area would chip away at the neighborhood’s severe shortage of below-market apartments.
Jeremiah Johnson — a housing advocate and member of the NYC New Liberals who wrote in favor of the project — told W42ST: “I’m very glad The Lirio project has finally gotten approval. This project has been obstructed and delayed for more than a decade since the initial agreement was made in 2009. I welcome every new project that will add more housing in Hell’s Kitchen, because to drive down the price of rent we have to be able to build more housing. We’ll never escape our housing crisis without building more and building fast.”
Now, as the official construction timeline begins, senior Vice President of Housing Works Andrew Coamey expressed the organization’s hope for the future of the vacant corner. “Research has repeatedly shown that safe, beautiful, and affordable housing is the foundation for living a long, productive life with HIV/AIDS,” he said.
“Housing Works is proud to partner with the Hudson Companies to develop The Lirio, which will provide just that, as well as a range of amenities and support services to residents. Aptly named after the oldest living thing in New York City — the liriodendron tree in Queens — we believe that The Lirio will serve as a home for all of its residents to live long, happy, and inspired lives.”