Affordable Housing or Lack Thereof
In a bid to block the New York City Housing Authority’s controversial land lease plan from moving forward, a group of opponents are filing a lawsuit today in New York State Supreme Court—the second such lawsuit to be filed against the plan, which seeks to raise much-needed funds by building market-rate apartments on public housing land.
The New York City Housing Authority’s remains beset by financial difficulties—the federal sequestration left it with a $205 million budget shortfall this year—a major gouge after more than a decade of cuts (the federal government has slashed some $2 billion in funding since 2001)—and its largely mid-century housing stock is ailing, in needs of billions of dollars of work. But at least many of its buildings are getting some long-awaited repairs.
On September 1, the Authority announced that the repair backlog had dropped to 189,805, down from 422,639 on January 1 of this year—the Housing Authority has made the repairs a priority, refusing to cut staff for the program even as they had to be laid off elsewhere. And yesterday the city announced that a capital project bond issuance has generated $732 million for major renovation work.
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.