The Puerto Rican Alfredo Otero, 62 years old, is just one of the more than 450,000 New Yorkers living in a cramped apartment in New York City Public Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings, with a list of problems that they are not new and much less easy to solve, but which are again brought into focus by some elected leaders, in the face of what is already described as a “humanitarian crisis”.
Now, in the cold season, the Puerto Rican has to cross his fingers, so that everything goes well with the heating and hot water.
Alfredo, like most of his neighbors, suffers from moisture and leaks from your bathroom walls. And another very sharp reality that he knows is very difficult to “repair”: the violence that surrounds his entire block.
“I’m just coming out to report that the bathroom paint has peeled off again. That in a week is fixed, because the truth is that the maintenance office comes quickly. But the problem is that it is damaged again after months. You know that they are old buildings, which have many details”Said the New Yorker raised in The Bronx.
As this summer ends, this resident of the NYCHA complex located in the Frederick Douglas Boulevard In Harlem, what worries him the most is not the leaks, or the accumulation of garbage, but the bullets.
“It is difficult to remember a day that there is no revolú (problem). Now I see that the police are afraid of criminals. This on hot days got really hot. Shots and drugs in the nose of the authorities. And nothing happens, “said Alfredo while he waited for the elevator for 15 minutes to carry the day’s merchandise to his unit with a single room, a kitchen of a couple of meters and a narrow bathroom.
“Elevators break down frequently. Today they are repaired and tomorrow they are broken again. The truth is that people don’t collaborate either, throw the garbage anywhere ”, criticizes the tenant.
New federal repair plan
The problems faced by this Puerto Rican are neither new nor different, in all the so-called ‘projects’ of public housing in the Big Apple, only that a few days ago they were put on the table when they were described as a crisis of deterioration that at the closing of 2021, hit rock bottom, to the heat of the pandemic.
This is how the Democratic Majority Leader of the US Senate, Charles Schumer of New York, described it: “In 2011, NYCHA’s capital needs were estimated at $ 17 billion. Due to inflation, deferred maintenance, lack of investment, and rising costs, the number now exceeds $ 40 billion “.
The senator’s sentence is not far from the words of 60-year-old Dominican Teresa Feliz and who lives in the complex ‘Drew Hamilton Houses’, also in Harlem. This immigrant assures that in recent months everything has been worse.
“The workers did not want to come for fear of catching COVID-19, because the rumor spread that the main sources of contagion were here, in the projects. Many maintenance problems accumulated and now since this summer, it is when they are half being fixed. But nothing in the background, everything is above. You know, the same as always ”, points out the retiree with 10 years living in this complex.
The level of deterioration of New York City public housing projects is expressed in decades of divestment.
None of the residents’ dramas maybe be news that moves today, but yes it is that they listen new winds of federal reinvestment.
“I have proposed that they be invested $ 80 billion to address this crisis in New York City and completely repair public housing across the country. I am committed to using my full power as Majority Leader, along with my colleagues in the House of Representatives, to secure a funding package that can restore and transform NYCHA, ”Senator Schumer wrote in the post. City & State NY.
For the Bronx community leader Lidia Colmenares, of Puerto Rican origin, the only thing left to do is think that in the face of this new investment promise: “They are not fooling us again.”
“Here the City, the Comptroller, the Council, everyone knows what happens in these projects. I have heard at least 10 plans. They advertise millions and millions and the pandemic put everything on hiatus again. Mayor De Blasio leaves in no time and here in this complex nothing happened. I hear about investments, but nothing comes here, to avoid mold and leaks ”, said the resident of the ‘Rivers Houses’.
According to the crossing of several reports condensed by the Citizen Budget Commission (CBC) organization, almost 90% of NYCHA’s housing units are dilapidated, and the worst thing is that if drastic changes are not made in the next 10 years, they could be at risk of being affected beyond the point where it is unprofitable and unprofitable. impossible to repair them.
Senator Schumer himself, who assuredly made a recent tour of some towers of this housing system where the poorest of the city reside, concluded that “it has fallen into such a state of deterioration that the only solution is through an action big, bold and transformative by the federal government ”.
Leaks, mold problems, rat infection, electrical failures, hot water supply problems, solid waste collection, imperfect elevators and violence are on the long list of endless and pending tasks in NYCHA buildings.
The Puerto Rican war veteran Héctor Mercado, 78, who was shot while serving in the Navy in the Vietnam War, has certain mobility problems and must face constant elevator failure from the ‘Drew Hamilton’ complex in Harlem, where he has resided for less than a year.
“That’s a big problem. Everything else I can handle. But the constant failures of the elevator put you in a difficult, very difficult situation, “he said.
NYCHA moves forward with 1,700 apartments
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who even before the pandemic had received strong pressure not only from residents, but even from the Prosecutor’s Office and Comptroller’s Office, due to the ascending levels of deterioration of public housing administered by the City, has argued that funding cuts by the administration of former President Donald Trump had exhausted the possibility of curbing the deterioration of these complexes.
Last fall 2018, the municipal president announced a commitment to carry out repairs in 62,000 apartments. These comprehensive upgrades, which will cost almost $ 13 billion in restorations, would be made possible through public-private partnerships, including the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program.
Municipal sources assure that the public health crisis that shook the Big Apple affected all the schedules of this action.
NYCHA recently closed a ‘Commitment to Permanent Affordability Together’ (PACT), with a joint development team, led with a private corporation, to provide $ 271 million in capital support for the renovation of the 1,718 apartments, all located in Manhattan.
New kitchens and baths are among the improvements coming to these apartments that are becoming permanent affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers. It also includes the modernization of common areas and services for residents.
Most of the apartment improvements under NYCHA are being made in buildings in East Harlem, Harlem, Kips Bay, Manhattanville, Upper West Side y Washington Heights.
More of 2,900 people they live in the units that are being remodeled.
“This association will inject community capital and resources to finance comprehensive repairs, while maintaining the rights of residents to ensure that they can continue to live in the neighborhoods they call home,” detailed the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, Vicki Been.
All renewals of this plan are expected to be completed by spring 2023.
Public Housing in NYC:
- 1 in 14 New Yorkers depends on NYCHA housing, through your housing plan or Section 8.
- 177,657 swith NYCHA residential units in all five boroughs.
- 45% of tenants They are of Hispanic origin, according to the balance of some organizations.
- 58,669 NYCHA apartments they are in Brooklyn, meaning the county with the most public housing units, followed by 53,890 in Manhattan.
- 44,500 Units in The Bronx
- 17,126 apartments in low-income housing projects in Queens.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.