NYC Housing Tenants Say Renovations Are Overdue

BY SIMONE GRAHAM

“If tenants were smart they’ll start fixing up their own apartments themselves instead of waiting on NYCHA.” said Lavern Kinlock of the South Bronx. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) cut a deal with L+M Development Partners and BFC Partners to sell off 50% of six section 8 housing developments.

According to the Daily News, NYCHA Chairwoman, Shola Olatoye argues that the deal is a great benefit for the NYCHA tenants, stating in a city council hearing, “the conditions that now exist in the apartments were truly deplorable.” The six section 8 developments will consist of roughly 875-900 units in three boroughs, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

NYCHA refused to comment about the matter. However, the longtime residents of Bronx River Houses didn’t hesitate to speak on the unsanitary conditions of their homes. Lavern Kinlock, 63, says that there’s a huge lack of professionalism amongt management and the NYCHA maintenance employees.

Kinlock said, “ It’s happened several times where I’ve called the NYCHA emergency repair center, complaining about my leaking faucet and the lead chipping off the walls, but no one shows up to fix anything.”

Kinlock then said,  the maintenance crew not only doesn’t show up at the scheduled time, they also leave a notice slip as if they knocked on the door, stating that the tenant wasn’t home.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the financially troubled public housing authority will receive $150 million at the outset of the deal, $100 million with in the next 2 years and $100 million more over the span of 15- years. The developers also plan to invest another $100 million in renovations in the complexes.

James Graham, 66, tenant patrol program founder,  continues to be the “eyes and ears” and voice of the community after living there for 36 years. He shares the history of NYCHA’s latest renovation in Bronx River Houses.

Graham said, “Bronx River hasn’t been reconstructed or improved since it was first built in 1950, In 1979 when they renovated us they didn’t finish the work, they upgraded the elevators, gave the tenants bathtubs and bullet-proof windows.” said Graham.

He also says, while pointing at a pipeline in a tenant’s kitchen, “when you walk into these apartments, the kitchen doesn’t look like a kitchen, the bathroom doesn’t look like a bathroom, everything in here is outdated old and rusty, because NYCHA left it this way.” said Graham.

Victor Williams, 53, thirty-five plus year tenant of Bronx River Houses his family has also been a residents of the community for forty-eight years. Williams says NYCHA lacks manpower, which is desperately needed to fix the apartments within the ten, 14 story buildings.

“Bronx River Houses was built in 1951, paint turned to lead, asbestos in the floor tiles, that takes manpower to fix, and that’s what housing doesn’t have right now/ and now they complain about not having the money to hire people to do the work that’s needed in these apartments…its Absurd!” said Williams.

In return of the million dollar financial benefit from L+M and BFC, they will be entitled to receive from the federal government the difference between market rents and the rents housing-authority tenants pay, which equals to 30% of income.

L+M and BFC are New York-based companies that develop both affordable and market- rate housing, they plan to invest about $80,000 per unit. Which includes installing new kitchens and bathrooms, recladding facades and replacing concrete open space with grass, flowers and playgrounds.

Williams then adds, “As far as the private developers investing 80,000 into each apartment, I think it’s beneficiary for housing and the developers because, in that case they can acquire more rent from us hardworking middle class tenants/ the electricity and the plumbing …all of that is deteriorating and its gonna cost more than what they plan to put in.”

L+M representatives weren’t available to comment, but the Wall Street Journal said Rick Gropper development director at L+M said, “ they’re in need of a significant upgrade across the board. It’s really been the same NYCHA story, which is just of funds for regular maintenance.”

In response to L+M director’s statement, Kinlock says she doesn’t expect any progress to be made by the private developers or NYCHA.

“So! what difference will this deal make, those private developers aren’t gonna do nothing more than what housing is doing now…. nothing! they need to stop selling hope!” said Kinlock.

She then adds, “they [NYCHA] just have a title and desk, meanwhile earning salaries that they don’t even deserve… by the grace of the good lord my apartment will get fixed up.” said Kinlock.

According to the Daily News, in NYCHA chairwomen Shola Oltaye defense it would’ve been “ negligent” not to take the deal. “It’s a good day because [tenants] get to have a roof that doesn’t leak, a kitchen that works, and a toilet that flushes.”

At the expiration of the contract, the developers may be given the option of buying the remaining 50% interest and turning all of the apartments into market rate units. The date of effect will be within the month of June 2015.

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