02/28/2014 10:44 am ET Updated Apr 30, 2014

How NYCHA Can Create an Infill Plan That Works

Mayor de Blasio is to be commended for fulfilling his campaign promise to end the "double taxation" of NYCHA residents for payments made to the New York Police Department (NYPD). This inequitable agreement required NYCHA to pay over $52 million a year to the NYPD, making it the only residential landlord in the city to pay for police protection.

While the cost savings to NYCHA are substantial, they represent only a small portion of the billions of dollars needed to address the public housing authority's significant disrepair caused by a decade of neglect. Undoubtedly, innovative and creative solutions must be sought if we are to restore dignity to NYCHA's 600,000 residents.

Under the Bloomberg administration, creativity and innovation took the shape of a proposed infill plan that called for the development of luxury rental units within eight NYCHA communities.

While NYCHA was tasked with engaging residents for feedback on the plan, meetings were scheduled with little to no notice in gyms with no air conditioning on hot summer nights. And, the intended dialogue was nothing more than a NYCHA monologue.

Despite the threats issued by NYCHA executives that this Bloomberg infill plan was the only salvation for public housing, residents, organizers, allies, elected officials and advocates rallied to express their unequivocal rejection. And when Bloomberg refused to back down, lawsuits were brought on behalf of the seven developments.

Thankfully, Mayor de Blasio trashed Bloomberg's ill-conceived plan. The logical question is: "What now?"

The answer to this dilemma lies in the very principles of progressiveness that ushered in a mayor who is unabashedly committed to changing how business is done in this city, particularly as it relates to the low income communities that barely survived the Bloomberg years.

In 2011, four New York City Council Members -- Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane D. Williams -- brought creativity and innovation to the residents of their districts by introducing participatory budgeting. Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. The cornerstone principles are inclusion, empowerment, and equality.

What if we applied these same participatory budgeting values to the development of a new infill proposal? What if a real dialogue between an administration committed to progressive values and a community committed to preserving their homes ensued? What if residents could shape the infill RFP through a process that mirrors participatory budgeting?

The benefits would be increased government transparency and civic engagement. The results would be an infill plan that supports NYCHA and is supported by residents.