Stepping off the elevator on the 12th floor of 250 Broadway, you pass by a dozen photographs of idyllic, almost bucolic housing projects. The dogwoods are in bloom, matching the pink matting within the frames. That the pictures are a bit faded only adds to the utopianism of the scenes: families frolic in green grass courtyards, the sun is always shining.
These days, the picture is far less rosy: Apartments are overcome with toxic black mold, riven with cavernous leaks, overrun with rats, sometimes all three and then some. Repairs? Fuggetaboutit. Those will be years away. And that’s just inside; outside, it’s a war zone.
Or so the city’s tabloids would have you believe.
But the Housing Authority—or NYCHA, as almost everyone calls it, pronouncing it like some bureaucratic sneeze—represents much more than those run-down apartments we read about, of which there are fewer than the coverage suggests.
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
The folks in upper Manhattan have been voicing their concerns lately: residents of West Harlem can’t stand dog doodoo and residents of Washington Heights and Inwood are protesting the lack of affordable housing options. A group of residents and community gathered over the weekend to speak out against Department of Housing and Preservation neglect, DNAInfo reports.
The residents called for more affordable housing in the neighborhoods, citing that only 139 of the 43,922 new units and 1,363 of the 85,299 preserved units under Bloomberg’s administration have been in either Washington Heights or Inwood.
Affordable Housing or Lack Thereof
Better days are ahead for the Randolph Houses on West 114th Street—not that the 36 tenement buildings in Central Harlem have ever truly known good days.
Built in the 1890s, along with thousands of other substandard cold water flats serving the booming population of European immigrants, the buildings were abandoned amidst white flight. Like so many other unwanted apartments of that generation, they were taken over by the city in the 1970s and turned into public housing. Attempts at upkeep have been made over the years, but the upkeep never really was, well, kept up. The buildings have deteriorated to such a state that only 109 of their 452 units are occupied, but the city cannot afford to fix them.
To finally revive the Randolph Houses, the city’s Housing Authority and Department of Housing Preservation and Development are partnering with a private developer to retrofit the properties into modern, low-income housing. A request for proposals was released last week, and the winning developer will be charged with transforming the buildings into a mix of 140 public housing units and at least 155 affordable housing units.