Forest Hills Co-Op Houses leaves NYCHA 1

The residents of the Forest Hills Co-Op Houses have voted to break away from NYCHA.

Ed Koch was already a well-known figure in the city in the early 1970s, having represented parts of Manhatttan in Congress for two terms.

But it was his alliance with community members fighting tooth and nail against a proposed public housing complex at 108-03 62 Drive in Forest Hills that helped make him a household name in Queens.

The battle against then-Mayor John Lindsay’s proposal was partially successful — the trio of 12-story buildings were originally slated to be 24 stories tall — helping propel Koch to victory in the 1977 mayor’s race.

The development Koch fought so hard against is still there four decades later, but a New York City Housing Authority property it is no longer.

According to two officials, the residents of the Forest Hills Co-Op Houses voted “overwhelmingly” to leave NYCHA, instead opting to become its own entity — the Forest Hills Mutual Housing Association.

The vote happened over the course of two weeks earlier this fall, said Michael Cohen, the legislative director for Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) — two years after NYCHA’s original 40-year deed on the property expired.

“When the co-op was completed in 1975, a clause in the deed said that after 40 years, NYCHA would give the property to the tenants,” Cohen said. “Tenants could vote to remain in NYCHA as is or to have the deed conveyed to them.”

According to a NYCHA spokesperson, 72 percent of the residents voted in favor of the latter option.

The deed is now in the process of being transferred to the FHMHA, according to Tim Thomas, the chief of staff for Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing).

Thomas and Cohen added that for the last few years, co-op residents have complained that the development was not being properly kept up by the company NYCHA had contracted with to perform maintenance.

“This has been an ongoing conversation for years,” Thomas said.

A NYCHA spokesman told the Chronicle on Wednesday that a vote among residents was always part of the plan for the development.

“It was always intended to be this process, to vote to remain with NYCHA or not,” the spokesperson said. “We did two years of resident engagement.”

“[The co-op] has a unique history and was created as a cooperative separate from traditional public housing,” the housing authority said in a statement. “Through engagement with residents and partnership with the city, Forest Hills residents chose to separate from NYCHA while retaining their long-term affordability and gain significant capital investments.”

Once the deed is officially transferred, the cost of monthly rent will be frozen for two years, with all residents being given two-year leases to start.

The NYCHA spokesperson added that every apartment will become rent-stabilized starting Jan. 1, while eligible residents can apply for housing subsidies like the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program.

Changes are also coming to the plot of the land the development sits on.

In addition to becoming the development’s property manager, Phipps Management will purchase a portion of the site for $8.5 million and build three new mixed-income residential structures — plans have yet to be filed with the Department of Buildings.

In return, Phipps will pay the co-op board “at least” $130,000 a year once the new structures open, something Cohen said will help keep the property “financially viable.”

Upgrades to the existing buildings will also occur, including free appliance replacement, free general apartment repairs, a new parking garage, new fencing and improved landscaping.

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