NEW YORK (Dec. 2)
The Department of Housing and Urban Development denied today that it was responsible for selecting Forest Hills as the site of a controversial low income housing project opposed by residents of the area which is predominently Jewish. S. William Green, Regional Administrator of HUD, made the denial in response to charges by Dr. Alvin Lashinsky, president of the Queens Jewish Community Council, that lower echelon HUD officials had “set their sights” in Forest Hills for the 840-family project.
“Under Federal housing laws, HUD does not select public housing sites,” Green said. “HUD’s only role was to determine whether the site selected by the city complied with HUD’s rules. It did and HUD therefore approved the site in 1968.” HUD’s financial role is to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage of the project which is estimated to cost $28 million.
Dr. Lashinsky made his charges in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last month. He said his information came from the office of Sen. James L. Buckley (Cons.-R.,N.Y.) who has supported opponents of the project. Dr. Lashinsky reported that according to Buckley’s office, the HUD people were so anxious to use Forest Hills as a pilot project for the Federally approved scatter-site low income housing that they were willing to spend double the budgeted amount if necessary.
MINORITY FAMILIES NO THREAT
Opponents of the project say it will destroy the homogeneity of the area by introducing low-income families. Green observed that “Forty percent of the units are reserved for the elderly. On the basis of past experience, the occupants of these units will be overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly Jewish.” He said that “While the majority of the balance of the units will probably be minority families, it is inconceivable that a few hundred minority families can ‘seriously threaten the continued existence of the Forest Hills Jewish community’ of tens of thousands” as charged by the QJCC and others.
Green’s response, contained in a letter to the Jewish Press, an American-Jewish weekly, noted that he had read an account of the JTA interview with Dr. Lashinsky in that paper which is a subscriber to the JTA news services. The Federal official wrote: “To the contrary of your statement that HUD is ‘willing to spend double the amount budgeted if necessary,’ the increase in budget from $17 million to $28 million represents only the unfortunate increase in construction costs from 1967, when funds for the project were initially set aside by HUD and 1971, when the city was finally ready to proceed.” He noted that the Forest Hills site was unanimously approved by the New York City Board of Estimate, whose only Jewish member, the late Brooklyn Borough President Abe Stark, voted for it.