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  1. #61
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    Residents' Group Fights Plan to Build Charter School in St. Nicholas Houses Park Space

    Some residents say they are concerned about the loss of green space at the housing complex for the school project.


    By Jeff Mays



    slide show

    HARLEM— A plan by the Harlem Children's Zone and the New York City Housing Authority to build a charter school on open space at the housing complex has sparked opposition from some residents.

    Under the current proposal, 93,000 square feet of open space at St. Nicholas Houses, between West 127th and West 131st streets and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass boulevards, would be sold to build a charter school for 1,300 students. Also, West 129th Street, which now ends in a cul-de-sac before Frederick Douglass Boulevard, would be opened up to through traffic. Construction is slated to start this year.

    FULL ARTICLE

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    Great! This is what should be happening to projects if they're not going to be torn down. Looking at the rendering though it appears 129th street will still not truly be "open" which is a shame.

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    Charter School Set for Harlem Housing Superblock

    Cash-strapped NYCHA sees pending deal as model for selling development rights in problem-plagued projects

    Julia Galef


    Under the plan, the Harlem Children's Zone would build a charter school and community center (in blue)
    at the heart of the St. Nicholas Houses in Harlem.


    A pending deal to build a charter school in the heart of a public housing development could herald a new long-term strategy for the cash-strapped New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), which has provided education and services to underprivileged children since 1997, is in talks to buy a plot of land at the center of the St. Nicholas Houses in Central Harlem, home to one of the highest percentages of unused NYCHA development rights in the city.

    With the help of a recent $20 million donation from Goldman Sachs, HCZ plans to build a combination charter school and community center on 130,000 square feet of open space in St. Nicholas, which spans a superblock from 127th to 131st streets, between 7th and 8th avenues. Children of the residents of St. Nicholas would be given priority in enrollment, and the center would house classes for adults as well as universally accessible facilities like a gym and health center.

    The deal affords NYCHA the opportunity to break up the superblock and reconnect it to the surrounding street grid. The section of West 129th Street that runs through St. Nicholas was demapped when the project was built, and it currently ends in a cul-de-sac before it reaches 8th Avenue. In order to provide a streetscape for the new school, and to make it easier for buses to pick up and drop off students, NYCHA has proposed extending West 129th Street all the way to 8th Avenue and putting it back on the New York City map.


    NYCHA argues that the project would help reconnect the isolated superblock site to the neighborhood,
    as well as improve safety within the complex.


    The goal is a desirable one because, as the planning community learned from its experiments of the midcentury, superblocks can be isolating and difficult to police. “The idea [to reconnect West 129th Street] is that you would have more lighting, more eyes on the street, and more activity, which would help increase the level of safety,” explained Ilene Popkin, NYCHA’s assistant deputy general manager for development. If all goes according to plan, St. Nicholas could set the stage for similar interventions in the future. “This has the potential to be a model,” Popkin said.

    The project marks a notable step for NYCHA in other ways. The agency has suffered budget shortfalls since 2002, with an estimated $139 million deficit this year. Community services have been significantly cut to make ends meet, so NYCHA has been seeking to partner with private organizations to pick up the slack. The way NYCHA sees it, deals like this one with a private developer solve multiple structural problems simultaneously: breaking up a superblock, reducing a major deficit, and providing additional services at the same time.

    While some residents have worried that the HCZ sale represents a slide toward privatization that could end up putting public housing residents on the street, NYCHA insists those fears are unfounded. “It’s a sentiment I encounter all the time, but there is no truth to it,” Popkin said. “We are absolutely not selling the public housing.”

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=4869

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    Lack of funding is root of problem

    Part 2 in a 3-part series on N.Y.C.H.A. Read part one here.

    BY Aline Reynolds

    New York’s public housing system, founded in the 1930s, is historically considered to be one of the most successful in the country. It owns and operates 344 housing developments, 30 of them in Lower Manhattan.

    But in recent years, a severe lack of funding, paired with aging buildings, has hindered the authority’s ability to keep up with repairs.

    “[Underfunding] each year adds to our structural deficit and hampers the Authority’s ability to meet the maintenance needs of our aging housing stock,” explained Michael Kelly, general manager of the New York City Houseing Authority, at a recent public hearing.

    In 2005, the housing authority anticipated a $7.5 billion need for apartment repairs, but only a fifth of that amount is available — not nearly enough for the thousands of work orders it receives each year. Since then, repair requests have continued to soar, reaching 250,000 last year, while N.Y.C.H.A.’s budget was further battered by the recession. It currently has a backlog of 107,000 work orders, some of which are scheduled for 2012 and 2013.

    Tenant advocates such as Judith Goldiner, supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society, also believe the problem is compounded by a mismanagement of the funds it does have. The authority is spending excessively on job training, social services and sanitation, Goldiner said, while neglecting fundamental maintenance of the developments.

    “They’re required to provide decent housing. All the rest of it is kind of window dressing,” said Goldiner. “There’s a lot of ways that they could save money in their budget and redirect it towards what really needs to happen here.”

    Kelly announced at the hearing that N.Y.C.H.A. is trying to do just that. He said they are looking into re-appropriating $7 million in capital funds for repairs and reevaluating its capital program.

    But it can be a vicious cycle: the less the authority invests on the aging infrastructure of its developments, the greater the need for individual repairs.

    “The serious repair needs are coming from the backlog of unmet capital improvements,” explained Victor Bach, a housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society, a nonprofit advocacy and research organization for low-income New Yorkers. “With that kind of backlog, you have accelerated deterioration.”

    Creation of the C.C.C.

    In 2005 N.Y.C.H.A. created a centralized call center to streamline repair services across the city. The center operates from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and has an electronic ticketing system that schedules repairs based on urgency.

    Major emergencies such as gas leaks, elevator outages, or floods are typically attended to within 48 hours, but the tenant still has to schedule a follow-up appointment through the call center for patch-up work on the walls or for a floor job. Residents of several Lower East Side developments believe the system has proved inefficient.

    “They just pass the buck from one worker to another, and nothing ever gets done,” said Rutgers Houses tenant Dorothea Cody, who has had a leak in her bathroom for years.

    Tenants at Smith Houses and the other Lower East Side developments are filling out report cards that ask them to assess N.Y.C.H.A.’s operations. So far, the call center has received an “F” for timeliness and a “C” for overall reliability.

    But contrary to tenants’ accounts, N.Y.C.H.A. claims that the former decentralized repairs system was far less effective than the call center.

    “Housing assistants or receptionists at each development handled all requests for maintenance work,” and residents didn’t receive a scheduled date for repairs, Kelly said. “As a result, approximately 20 percent of all attempted apartment maintenance could not be completed because no resident was available when staff visited the apartment.”

    But some believe arranging appointments for months or even years down the line isn’t an improvement to the system.

    “The problem is that they’ve set up a centralized system to tell people they’re not going to get repairs, or they’ll get them in two or three years – that doesn’t make any sense,” said Goldiner.

    Gloria Finkelman, the deputy general manager of N.Y.C.H.A., acknowledged at the hearing that some residents have to wait for as long as two years for repairs to be completed. The N.Y.C.H.A. maintenance worker assigned to the work orders, she explained, may not have the expertise to fix the leak or the problem at hand. The tenant is then supposed to schedule a follow-up appointment with an appropriate tradesman.

    “We’re a union shop,” she explained. “Certain union members have certain job descriptions that don’t allow them to do other unions’ work.”

    A shortage of union tradesmen is also making the situation worse. The total number of painters, carpenters and plasterers available to N.Y.C.H.A. dropped from 805 in 2005 to 765 this year, according to a N.Y.C.H.A. report obtained by the Downtown Express. The number of individual lawsuits against N.Y.C.H.A. over repairs has escalated in the last six months, according to the Legal Aid Society. And some tenants are withholding rent payments, or threatening to do so, until N.Y.C.H.A. fixes their apartments, which could jeopardize their housing status.

    “It’s a dangerous situation because when you do that, you really risk getting evicted, and you also risk being blacklisted” by landlords outside of N.Y.C.H.A., Goldiner explained.

    Federal funds are trickling in, but will they do the trick?

    Last March, N.Y.C.H.A. got a welcome infusion of approximately $1 billion from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that, starting this fall, is being distributed to the developments for basic repairs over the next 15 years. The authority also received a separate pool of $423 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development for capital expenses, including elevator repairs, boiler replacements, and energy efficiency projects in developments across the five boroughs.

    Now, each development will get its slice of the stimulus money since 21 developments, previously owned and operated by the city and state, including Rutgers Houses, were federalized earlier this year.

    “All developments were hurting before, because there was less [money] for each development,” explained State Senator Daniel Squadron.

    But the stimulus alone may not be the final fix, according to Squadron, who co-launched the campaign for federal support and has been working with the tenant associations of the various Downtown developments to expedite repairs.

    “The easy solution is always money,” Squadron said. “But money is never enough.

    N.Y.C.H.A. has been plagued by three challenges: underfunding, poor management and a lack of political will.”

    Kelly reported at the hearing that N.Y.C.H.A. is making a major effort to fix the repair system. The authority is working on a comprehensive five-year strategic plan to preserve public housing that will “serve as a vital roadmap for addressing our current maintenance and repair backlog,” he said. The plan will be released sometime next year, according to N.Y.C.H.A. communications officer Sheila Stainback.

    Until then, many residents could remain frustrated and exposed to health hazards tied to their living conditions.

    Part 3 in the series will focus on safety issues in N.Y.C.H.A. buildings

    http://www.downtownexpress.com/de_39...offunding.html

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    Many of these folks are the working poor. A rent raise wouldn't be so much an incentive as a hard kick in the ass, achieving nothing but to give the kicker a false sense of accomplishment. The job market now sucks, so unless there is a pay increase to match that proposed rent increase then it helps not.

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    Residents want more than cameras

    Part 3 in a series on the New York City Housing Authority

    BY Aline Reynolds

    The New York City Housing Authority has neither the funds nor the personnel to implement all the security measures the residents want, such as monitored cameras and an enhanced Resident Watch program. Yet crime has risen by 2.8 percent in Lower Manhattan’s public housing developments over the past year.

    N.Y.C.H.A.’s Safety and Security Task Force, created last year, is reviewing security and police issues to amend its services. The task force will soon release a report documenting N.Y.C.H.A.’s security problems and solutions. But under the current system, many public housing residents are afraid.

    full article

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    Affordable Housing's Hole-In-The-Wall-Gang

    NYCHA struggles to do better amid shaky economy

    Bill Millard


    Manhattanville houses.


    Maintain-and-repair rather than raze-and-rebuild has long been New York City’s approach to affordable housing, but in the face of a steady decline in public housing—a loss of 10,000 units a year nationwide since 1995—NYCHA has maintained its stock just barely.

    Now with grievous financial shortfalls, NYCHA is struggling to uphold commitments to affordability and resist calls for demolition or privatization. The strategic plan for 2011–2015 combines administrative creativity and new income streams to upgrade the 334 developments housing over 400,000 New Yorkers.
    NYCHA’s revenue sources, comprised of HUD subsidies and residents’ rent, have been insufficient to keep buildings in adequate repair; there is currently a three-year backlog in requests. Recurrent trouble spots include elevator breakdowns, thriving rodent colonies, sewage spillovers, and plumbing backups. “I’d rather sleep in the park,” said Damaris Reyes, executive director of Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), which conducted a resident survey.

    Part of the problem, Reyes notes, involves NYCHA’s centralized call center for repair requests and scheduling, which has performed poorly in coordinating visits logically (plastering before painting, for example), and alienated many residents, particularly Chinese speakers, from building management. Another problem has been a lowball/ snowball cycle: The construction procurement process prevents many skilled contractors from bidding, and the resulting shoddy work requires repeated attention, with small problems postponed until they become larger. Further problems arise when buildings get flimsy new components and sporadic service.


    Castle Hill Houses.

    Under the Mixed-Finance Modernization Plan, a one-time opportunity blending American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, private investment, and tax-exempt bonds, the agency is federalizing 21 developments that state and city government built after World War II but stopped supporting in 1995. An administrative quirk left these buildings distinct from NYCHA’s 313 federally funded developments, and accounts for roughly $90 million of NYCHA’s $150 million annual deficit. There’s an unambiguous villain in this matter: single-term Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-NC), whose 1998 Faircloth Amendment to the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act blocked HUD support for construction or inclusion of new public housing. It froze the number of federal units, and defined transfer of “the 21” to federal responsibility as a prohibited addition.

    With federal, state, and city funding for these units zeroed out, NYCHA has maintained them only by sharing HUD subsidies meant for its federal units, “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” as NYCHA’s General Manager Michael Kelly put it. The Recovery Act, however, exempts its funds from the Faircloth prohibitions. In the first phase of federalization, investment through a special public/private partnership including Citi Community Capital and the nonprofit Housing Partnership Development Corporation will generate $400 million to rehabilitate the 21 developments. The second phase aims to merge them into “one NYCHA” of 334 federally funded units.

    Despite charges that federalization is a step toward privatization, Kelly said that NYCHA remains the general partner in control, with caretakers and managers retained, union rules intact, and no tenants displaced or rights diminished. “Most importantly, we built in a model that preserves the public housing; it will not fall into the threat of foreclosure,” Kelly said.

    A plan is in place to raise rents on the 27 percent of occupants who can afford higher payments within the legal ceiling of 30 percent of income. Expanded commercial opportunities on NYCHA sites, like the Harlem Children’s Zone on the West 129th Street superblock, represent another revenue stream. “What we’re looking at is a much more aggressive public-private partnership,” Kelly said, “and to use the value of our real estate to attract developers and builders who would be interested in working with us to add additional housing and community amenities on our sites.” Mixed-use strategies for restoring the urban grid, he adds, allow for more systematic expansion of retail and housing than the towers-in-a-park model.

    Urbanists tend to agree that public housing is an expression of civic values and a sound taxpayer investment in hard times. Still, the appointment of banker John Rhea, not a housing specialist, as NYCHA’s chairman does little to assuage residents’ fears that short-term financial considerations will preclude long-range capital investment, or that the Preservation, Enhancement and Transition of Rental Assistance Act, a draft HUD proposal to leverage private funds without compromising public ownership, will not be an opening for part-owners with foreclosure risks. Heated debates on that bill underscore the inextricability of local concerns from national agendas.

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=5001

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    NYCHA’s repair system is broken, tenants charge

    By Aline Reynolds

    Lower Manhattan, the world’s financial capital where tremendous fortunes are made and lost, is also the site of 30 public housing developments where low-income tenants live in shoddy and unhealthy conditions. These residents look to the New York City Housing Authority for much-needed repairs to their decaying apartments.

    But NYCHA, short on funds and, some say, ineffective, cannot seem to keep up with the escalating work orders. NYCHA promises it is devising a master plan to improve the repairs system, but whether the new approach will make a difference is yet to be seen.

    Nadya Martoral, who has lived for two decades in the Alfred E. Smith Houses, near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge on the Lower East Side, is unemployed and takes care of her 11 children on her own.
    As if that were not hard enough, she has a host of unfixed appliances in her apartment, some of which jeopardize her family’s health and darken their mood. Floor tiles are cracked, windows are broken, and the plaster from her kitchen and bathroom ceilings is falling off.

    Martoral has made several repair requests to NYCHA, to no avail.

    “I call and say, ‘Listen, I need this… ’ They give [ticket numbers] to me, and they never come over here.”

    Most recently, a NYCHA operator scheduled a repair for Sept. 23. Martoral said she waited all day, but no one came.

    “I feel like that’s abuse, because I can’t live like that. I understand I owe money,” she said in broken English. “But they have to do the job in housing, too.”

    Her daughter Jubilee Domenech, 16, recently injured the nails on her big toes on broken floor tiles on the entryway to the bathroom. She was forced to give up her spot on her high-school basketball team this fall because, she said, it’s too painful to play.

    “I can’t play no more until my toenails come off,” she said.

    Jubilee visited the doctor the day of the accident, but she was too scared to go back and get her nails removed. Her goal of earning a basketball scholarship at a state university is now on the line.

    “My toes are bothering me,” she said, “and they’re making me think twice about what I want to do.”

    The apartment’s cracked floor may pose other health problems, as well. Dr. Warren Licht, chief medical officer at Downtown Hospital, said asbestos could still be present in the floors of older NYCHA buildings, such as Smith Houses, which was built in 1953.

    “It’s usually found in floors and hallways,” Licht said. “The more you are exposed to it, the more likely you are to get lung cancer 20 years from now.”

    Only days after Jubilee hurt herself on the tiles, a broken window in one of the bedrooms fell forward onto her arm.

    “I got up to look at my sister’s closet, and the whole window came off on my arm,” she explained.

    A handyman showed up a few days later to repair the window, but didn’t finish the job.

    “He was here for 10 minutes, tops,” she said. “He just left this piece here with a bunch of screws.”

    The window is still broken.

    “Don’t touch it,” her mother warned Jubilee, fearful that it could hurt her daughter’s arm again.

    The pipes above the toilet leak intermittently, causing water and plaster to rain down.

    “When we flush the toilet, it goes crazy,” Martoral said.

    She has filed a complaint for that, too, but doesn’t have a scheduled appointment. Jubilee, in the meantime, wears a sweater in the house to protect her arms against the falling plaster.

    Aixa Torres, president of the Smith Houses Tenant Association, established a grievance committee last spring to document tenants’ complaints and to assist those who don’t speak English. Earlier this month, she conducted a training session to teach residents how to set up an appointment through NYCHA’s Centralized Call Center.

    Torres is fed up with the repairs system, which she said is proving futile. Based on the repairs schedule, her ceiling fan isn’t supposed to be fixed for two years.

    “I’m just, like, done with them,” she said. “If we have to do litigation, we’re going to go that route.”

    Dorothea Cody, her husband, Roland, and their seven children have lived since 2003 in the Rutgers Houses development on the Lower East Side, just north of the Manhattan Bridge. Their crumbling bathroom causes constant leaks in the apartment next door, occupied by the elderly Mrs. Chen.

    “She gets flooded every time we take a shower.” Cody said. “After we shower, she’s mopping up a quart of water.”

    Chen wasn’t available for comment, but Cody described her neighbor’s conditions: “The wall is so damp, it feels like cardboard. All of the tile on her floor is up — it’s not puckering, it’s up. And her hallway wall is tilting forward. She just had new tiles laid again. It looks horrible.”

    The Codys have their own maintenance problems to deal with. Moldy plaster from the ceiling and walls falls on them when they flush the toilet in their main bathroom.
    “There’s a busted pipe in the wall — they constantly fix the bricks over and over, and get the same result in less than six months,” she said.

    NYCHA has visited three or four times since the spring.

    “They come in and have a look and they say, ‘Oh, that’s the plasterer’s job,’ ” she said. “And it’s never done.”

    “The unions have rules the workers have to abide by, so they can’t always call in a plumber and then a plasterer in the right order,” explained Victor Bach, a policy analyst with the Community Service Society, a nonprofit advocacy and research organization for low-income New Yorkers.

    According to the Codys, there was a time when NYCHA’s repair system was more efficient.

    “If they came in and saw what needed to be done, it was fixed right away,” said Dorothea Cody. “Now, when you call, they contradict one another. No one is consistent.”

    Finally, an inspector from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has a role in regular oversight of all NYCHA properties, visited the site a few weeks ago.

    “They said the mildew conditions were unsafe, and we put in an order,” Cody said. But the renovations will not come anytime soon.

    In the meantime, they face health risks. According to Dr. Licht, “Mold has spores, and spores act as allergens,” often leading to asthma and other respiratory conditions.

    As a short-term fix, Cody sprays her walls with Lysol, putting a towel over her nose to avoid inhaling the mold.

    “I run out of the bathroom and close the door, so when I go back inside all those black mold spots are off the wall and the ceiling,” she said.

    Long-term inhalation of mold can lead to an inflammation of the lungs, according to the National Institute of Health. Indeed, Cody reported that her allergies have gotten progressively worse over the years.

    “I’ve taken more allergy medicine this year than any year ever,” she said, noting that it’s the first year she has taken prescription drugs for her symptoms.

    The Codys had another appointment with NYCHA for plastering scheduled for Nov. 15, but they feared it would just be another temporary fix, if that. Getting the affected area painted will be a much longer wait, with a date scheduled for sometime in 2013.

    By now, Cody and her family’s patience has been pushed to the limit.

    “I pay too much rent for my bathroom to be looking like this, for so many years,” Cody said.

    In NYCHA’s Seward Park Extension, just south of the Williamsburg Bridge approach ramp, Mary Sing, 89, lives in an apartment that is filled with dust. But that’s the least of her problems. Part of her living-room wall is ripped wide open, exposing the building’s rotting interior.

    “They were supposed to fix it,” said her daughter, Mattie Luther, 70, whose full-time occupation is taking care of her mother. “The minute they fixed it, it started cracking — and they left it like that.”

    The mother and daughter got so frustrated they called 311, which directed them back to NYCHA’s call center.

    Sing has nightmares of the ceiling caving in on her. She constantly spits into a bucket to get rid of phlegm that collects in her mouth and throat.

    “She’s been doing that for four years, since I’ve been here,” Luther said.

    A few months ago, Luther herself was diagnosed with a throat infection.

    “There was nothing wrong with my throat until I came here,” she said, suspecting it is related to the conditions.

    Eliana Colon, another Seward Park Extension resident, won’t step foot into her kitchen, sickened by a putrid smell coming from a gaping hole above the cabinets. The stench comes from mold caused by a leak that has persisted for months.

    Eliana’s son Alfredo, who often stays overnight to care for her, said, “We called [the emergency hotline]. The first time they came, they make a little hole to investigate the leak.” That was last February.

    Another handyman visited in June, making an even bigger hole in an attempt to stop the dripping.

    “The guy took a look and said, ‘Oh my God’ — then he went upstairs and never came back,” Alfredo said.

    Fungus is now growing in the cabinets, and the wall below it is soaked in water, making cooking in the kitchen no longer an option.

    “I have to buy takeout food for her,” Alfredo said.

    The Colons’ next repair appointment is scheduled for June 2011. In the meantime, Eliana is considering withholding rent as she and her son continue to endure the horrible odor that pervades the apartment.

    “She can’t breathe with the smell sometimes,” Alfredo said of his mother, who has been hospitalized for asthma.

    “Anything that stays damp creates an environment for mold to grow,” Dr. Licht said. “People who are affected most are the very young and the very old, and people who already have a diagnosis of asthma.”

    According to NYCHA, a lack of funding is a major problem, affecting the agency’s ability to keep up with repairs on its 344 developments throughout the city.

    Annual underfunding “adds to our structural deficit and hampers the authority’s ability to meet the maintenance needs of our aging housing stock,” explained Michael Kelly, NYCHA’s general manager, at a recent public hearing.

    In 2005, the Housing Authority anticipated a $7.5 billion need for apartment repairs. Today, however, only one-fifth of those funds is available — not nearly enough for the thousands of work orders the agency receives each year. Since 2005, repair requests have continued to soar, reaching 250,000 last year, while NYCHA’s budget was further battered by the recession. The authority currently has a backlog of 107,000 work orders, some of which are scheduled for 2012 and 2013.

    Tenant advocates, such as Judith Goldiner, supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society, also believe the problem is compounded by NYCHA’s mismanagement of the funds it does have. The authority is spending excessively on job training, social services and sanitation, Goldiner said, while neglecting fundamental maintenance of the developments.

    “They’re required to provide decent housing. All the rest of it is kind of window dressing,” said Goldiner. “There’s a lot of ways that they could save money in their budget and redirect it toward what really needs to happen here.”

    Kelly announced at the hearing that NYCHA is trying to do just that: He said the agency is looking into re-appropriating $7 million in capital funds for repairs and re-evaluating its capital program.

    But it can be a vicious cycle: The less the authority invests on its developments’ aging infrastructure, the greater the need for individual repairs.

    “The serious repair needs are coming from the backlog of unmet capital improvements,” explained Victor Bach, a housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society. “With that kind of backlog, you have accelerated deterioration.”

    In 2005 NYCHA created a centralized call center to streamline repair services across the city. The center operates from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and has an electronic ticketing system that schedules repairs based on urgency.

    Major emergencies, such as gas leaks, elevator outages or floods, are typically attended to within 48 hours. But the tenant still has to schedule a follow-up appointment through the call center for patch-up work on the walls or for a floor job. Residents of several Lower East Side developments believe the system is inefficient.

    “They just pass the buck from one worker to another, and nothing ever gets done,” said Rutgers Houses tenant Dorothea Cody, who has had a leak in her bathroom for years.

    Tenants at Smith Houses and the other Lower East Side developments are filling out report cards that ask them to assess NYCHA’s operations. So far, the call center has received an “F” for timeliness and a “C” for overall reliability.

    A shortage of union tradesmen is also making the situation worse. The total number of painters, carpenters and plasterers available to NYCHA dropped from 805 in 2005 to 765 this year, according to a NYCHA report obtained by this newspaper.

    Meanwhile, the number of individual lawsuits against NYCHA over repairs has escalated in the last six months, according to the Legal Aid Society. And some tenants are withholding rent, or threatening to do so, until NYCHA fixes their apartments — which could jeopardize their housing status.

    “It’s a dangerous situation because when you do that, you really risk getting evicted, and you also risk being blacklisted” by landlords outside of NYCHA, Goldiner explained.

    Last March, NYCHA got a welcome infusion of roughly $1 billion from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that, starting this fall, is being distributed to the developments for basic repairs over the next 15 years. The authority also received a separate allocation of $423 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development for capital expenses, including elevator repairs, boiler replacements and energy efficiency projects in developments across the five boroughs.

    Now, each development will get its slice of the stimulus money since 21 developments, previously owned and operated by the city and state, including Rutgers Houses, were federalized earlier this year.

    “All developments were hurting before, because there was less money for each development,” explained state Senator Daniel Squadron.

    But the stimulus alone may not be the final fix, according to Squadron, who co-launched the campaign for federal support and has been working with the tenant associations of the various Downtown developments to expedite repairs.

    “The easy solution is always money,” Squadron said. “But money is never enough. NYCHA has been plagued by three challenges: underfunding, poor management and a lack of political will.”

    Kelly reported at the hearing that NYCHA is making a major effort to fix the repair system. The authority is working on a comprehensive, five-year strategic plan to preserve public housing that will “serve as a vital road map for addressing our current maintenance and repair backlog,” he said. The plan will be released sometime next year, according to Sheila Stainback, a NYCHA spokesperson.

    Until then, many residents could remain frustrated and exposed daily to health hazards in their apartments.


    http://www.thevillager.com/villager_396/nycha.html

  10. #70
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Never seen such clean and tidy roofs .




    The Queensbridge Projects are the largest public housing development in North America. -Long Island City, Queens
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lcomett...-18964236@N00/

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    Life In A Landmark: Pioneering Public Housing Site Shows Its Age

    For residents of First Houses—the Lower East Side site where public housing began in the United States—pride in their historic location is mixed with worries about deterioration inside.

    By Shamira Muhammad



    Lower East Side — Eleanor Roosevelt is not on Isaac McQueen’s mind right now. Nor are all the politicians or dignitaries who were present on a cold December day in 1935 when First Houses opened—the first public housing development in the United States, designed to help low income residents escape the squalor of the city's run-down tenements.

    McQueen thinks only of trying to make it up the stairs as he slowly shuffles to his fourth floor apartment. There are no elevators here and he concentrates as he swings his legs on step after step, cradling his crutches in one hand and the railing in the next, slightly wheezing. A veteran of the Cold War (he guarded missiles in Washington state), he now is engaged in a different kind of fight: a 15-year battle against the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) over a perpetual leak coming through his kitchen ceiling.


    Winter 2009: The Fight to Save NYC's Public Housing

    McQueen has lived in First Houses since October 24, 1994. The man living in what became his apartment moved into another on the first floor that was originally meant for McQueen. McQueen was instead moved to the fourth floor apartment, where the reason for the previous tenants' move became immediately apparent. “He’d requested to be moved out, for the same reason,” McQueen says, “the leak.” The feeling among some residents in First Houses falls somewhere between pride and worry about the historic landmark that they call home. Lashawna Kelly, who lives in another of the eight buildings comprising First Houses, is fighting her own battles against leaks and cheap, falling doors.

    Violet Campbell wages war almost daily against the mice that try to creep through the cracks in her deteriorating kitchen floors, while Israel Alvarado tries to contain the mold that hides behind the tiles in his mother’s bathroom. And then there’s McQueen, whose 15-year ordeal has taken a toll on his kitchen and patience.

    A rich history

    First Houses opened in 1935 to great fanfare. Thousands of New Yorkers lined the streets to celebrate the hopeful demise of dank, rat-infested tenements. The Houses were completely new apartment buildings and were to represent the embodiment of the American dream: affordable and decent housing for all. Mrs. Roosevelt dedicated the new development, with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia standing by her side, the newly built First Houses cheerfully in the background.

    Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), believes that the First Houses are one of the most important and significant landmarks in the city. “They are such an important forerunner of building type that so affected New York City that there are few places that I can think of that are more significant landmarks as they relate to the life of New Yorkers,” he says.

    As public housing multiplied from the 1930s through the 1960s, many housing authorities around the country became fiscally insolvent and were mismanaged. “New York City was lucky,” Bach says. “New York has the largest public housing program in the country. One out of every fourteen units is located here in New York. Compared to many other large cities, New York’s public housing has been relatively well-managed by NYCHA.”

    When they first opened, the First Houses stood in stark contrast to the tenement buildings that were previously on the same land. According to the First Houses landmark designation report, new residents would have been thrilled that there were new indoor bathrooms, electric refrigerators, gleaming wood floors and even a community laundry room for each building—with electric washing machines. Between 3,000 and 4,000 applicants competed for the only 122 apartments, not a surprise for a city reeling from the Great Depression.

    Page 2 | 3 | 4

    http://www.citylimits.org/news/artic...-shows-its-age

  12. #72
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    Some lovely ornamentation.


    Do 36 Harlem Tenements Hold the Key to the City’s Affordable Housing Future?


    By Matt Chaban


    (click to enlarge)
    Two of the 22 tenement buildings on the south side of 114th Street,
    all of which are vacant. (Property Shark)

    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 and 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 in the 1970s by the city and turned into public housing. Attempts at upkeep have been made over the years, but the upkeep never was really, 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 fix 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.

    “At the Randolph Houses we are not just breathing a new life into these buildings—we are creating new homes, new opportunities, and a more affordable and sustainable New York,” HPD Commissioner Mathew Wambua said in a release.

    This is a reduction in the overall number of apartments, including the number of NYCHA units, though for myriad technical (and wonkishly interesting!) reasons, it is actually a three-fold gain for the city’s subsidized housing stock.

    It is not simply a matter of disrepair but safety that the Randolph Houses have lost 347 apartments. The deterioration is so bad that those units are no longer legally habitable. The entire south side of the street, comprising 307 apartments, sits vacant. And since NYCHA only receives federal funds from HUD for occupied apartments, an increase to 140 from the current 109 will actually mean more money for the agency.

    “Technically, it’s a reduction in the number of units, but it’s an increase in the number of units that are online today,” Amy Chester, deputy director of NYCHA’s development department, told The Observer.

    Why NYCHA is not building 452 refurbished units is another matter. Because of a HUD calculation known as total development costs, only so much money is allocated per unit to housing authorities across the country for construction and maintenance of buildings. With New York’s especially high construction costs, these funds never cover the full price of construction and rehabilitation projects.

    This is not the only reason a partnership with HPD and an outside developer is necessary. Theoretically, NYCHA could take out a loan to cover the difference in costs, but HUD forbids public housing rents be used to cover loan repayments. That is why a developer is needed, to create affordable housing units—in this case pegged a family of four making $49,080, or 60 percent of the area median income—to cross-subsidize the project. (To clarify, the distinction between affordable housing and public housing is that the former is built and managed by private developers with oversight by HPD while the latter is wholly owned and managed by NYCHA as part of the Section 8 housing program. Both are allocated to tenants through income-restricted lotteries.)


    (click to enlarge)
    The north side of the Randolph Houses are still occupied,
    though some units sit empty. (Property Shark)

    Another factor is a federal statute dating from the 1990s, the Faircloth limit.. This caps the number of public housing unit’s a city can have. Essentially, New York cannot build new projects, certainly not on the scale seen during the middle of last century, and must instead manage the number it has, subtracting a few dozen or hundred from one project while adding others elsewhere.

    “NYCHA can’t or won’t be building a new super block with 3,000 units like we used to,” Ms. Chester said. “But you also can’t build solely public housing because of TDC. Whatever you build, it has to be cross-subsidized.”

    Those good with math will realize that the city is calling for only about 300 apartments in the redeveloped projects, a reduction of more than 30 percent in the number of units. This is because most of the apartments at the Randolph Houses date to the turn of the last century, when the original buildings were built. “If you go to the Tenement Museum, it looks just love that.” Others have been even further subdivided, creating unhealthy and even illegal—they violate current building codes—living conditions.

    This addition-by-subtraction might frustrate some hard-line housing advocates, who see any reduction in the city’s low-income housing stock as a threat to New York’s livability and diversity, but Harold Shutz, a senior fellow at the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Commission, thinks the city is making the most of what it has. “I think it’s a very reasonable response to a bad situation,” he said. “On the whole a positive, though the advocates probably won’t see it that way.”

    “They’re not only brand-spanking-new apartments, but they’re also going to have better units, in terms of quality of life,” Ms. Chester said. The repairs being undertaken include removing the back portion of the buildings to create a deeper rear yard, which allows for more light and air to reach the apartments but also reduces the size of the buildings. “Some of the bedrooms are without closets while others barely have room for beds,” Ms. Chester said.

    Another big benefit is that the program will help reoccupy an entire block of historical architecture. Even if the tenement style may be unloved, it played an epochal role in the shape of the city, its buildings and its inhabitants, so much so the Randolph Houses have been considered for state historic preservation status.

    The agencies have undertaken similar projects before. At the Chelsea, Elliott and Forest houses, new HPD affordable housing projects have been built on NYCHA land. The most notorious example may be Prospect Plaza, in Brownsville, where four hulking towers are being demolished and replaced with more contextual, rowhouse type blocks of affordable housing.

    What makes the Randolph Houses unique is this is the first time affordable and public housing units will be intermixed within the same buildings. “This initiative is a first by utilizing a HUD mixed finance program combining public and non-public housing in a single development,” NYCHA Chairman John Rhea said in the release. “We look forward to the successful rehabilitation of Randolph Houses as a model for future redevelopment.”

    http://www.observer.com/2011/08/nych...ing-tenements/

  13. #73
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    If they were smart, they would offer this as a joint project.

    Low Income Housing never works when you put a bunch of people together that do not appreciate what they have been given. I am not saying that ALL of them do not appreciate it, but enough so that you get poorly maintained units with the feeling that they are all crappy anyway and that if they get too bad they will be moved to another one.

    Would it be smarter to make it so that you had a sort of hybridization? That you offered state financial aid, OR, lower property taxes to include a small portion (say 25%?) to any "luxury" redevelopment to lower income families? Combine that with GETTING THE PEOPLE IN THERE TO HELP CLEAN AND FIX IT UP who are eligible for occupancy (akin to Habitat).

    People have more respect for something they helped build, and "luxury" developments always appreciate tax breaks.

  14. #74

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjahedge View Post
    Low Income Housing never works when you put a bunch of people together that do not appreciate what they have been given. I am not saying that ALL of them do not appreciate it, but enough so that you get poorly maintained units with the feeling that they are all crappy anyway and that if they get too bad they will be moved to another one.

    People have more respect for something they helped build, and "luxury" developments always appreciate tax breaks.
    Thats very true.

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    Breaking Blocks

    Brooklyn public housing minus the superblock.

    by Tom Stoelker


    New retail space along the street. Courtesy Gorlin Architects

    Rosanne Haggerty, president of Community Solutions made a presentation at the Municipal Arts Society Summit in October that recast the troubled Brownsville public housing in Brooklyn as a major public asset. Rethinking the housing block, Haggerty proposed a surgical approach that preserves original buildings and emphasizes breaking up the superblock with through-traffic streets, integrated urban agriculture, ground floor retail, and the incorporation of social services—all without displacing a single resident.

    In 1990 Haggerty founded the not-for-profit Common Ground, with a stated mission of ending homelessness in New York City. Two of the group’s better-known projects, the Times Square and the Prince George hotels, provided housing for the homeless while integrating social services in turn-of-the-century hotels that were about to face the wrecking ball. With the buildings saved, gilded age lobbies became 21st century community centers.

    proposal includes urban agriculture on the rooftops (left) and around the building grounds (right).



    Common Ground began work in Brownsville five years ago in an effort to prevent homelessness before it happens. The organization stopped 300 evictions, which in turn became the impetus for launching Community Solutions, a new spin-off of Common Ground that strives to apply the same principles used at the hotels to the public housing superblock.

    “How do you create a healthy, sustainable, and vibrant community in the superblock that can be preserved instead of resorting to the Chicago and St. Louis model of demolishing them?”

    Haggerty posed in an interview. She pointed out that despite a $6 billion deferred maintenance budget, the New York City Housing Authority continues to maintain their vast stock of buildings.

    “They never got to that point of complete decay where the only alternative was to demolish and replace.”
    The existing superblocks (left) would be returned to the surrounding street grid (right).



    Alexander Gorlin Architects conducted a pro bono comprehensive analysis, which included air and development rights. The plan seeks to enhance infrastructure and begins by adding 700 to 1,000 housing units, some through lightweight construction atop existing buildings. Additionally, the proposal calls for street-side retail throughout to activate ground-level circulation.

    But street life requires streets. To that end, the plan reconnects the superblock to the grid by inserting through-streets in the place of former cul-de-sacs, inactive plazas, and underutilized parking lots. For this level of intervention, the obstacles are many. But a relevant precedent is the Harlem Children’s Zone, the 2010 project to remap and rezone public housing blocks that became the first proposal to successfully break the superblock in New York.

    With an aggressive agenda to intervene early, Haggerty of Community Solutions said, “Go where they’re living and make it easier for them to succeed by pulling the linkages to health and mental health into their homes.”

    http://www.archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=5757

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