Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Thirty-six tenement style buildings in Central Harlem will soon become a mix of public housing and privately owned apartments for low and moderate income families.
The New York City Housing Authority said they planned to gut renovate 295 apartments — buildings that make up the Randolph Houses — and 140 will remain public housing, the rest will be privately-owned affordable housing units.
“It’s the first time that public housing residents and non-public housing residents will be living together in the same building”, said Amy Chester, NYCHA's Deputy Director of Development.
The mix of apartments means a mix of funding streams which is good news for the cash strapped housing authority. Beyond NYCHA's federal funds, the project will tap financing made available through the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.
The Randolph Houses are not the typical public housing development made up of large towers. These five-story buildings were taken over by New York City Housing Authority in the 1970's and more than half of the dilapidated properties have been empty for years. Originally, the buildings were to be torn down and rebuilt, but that plan was halted after they were designated landmarks.
Chester said the façade and other elements will be protected. “So for instance we need to keep the stoops and the brownstone and the limestone,” said Chester.
When the properties were slated for demolition in 2002, several residents were moved out and placed in other NYCHA developments. Chester said those former residents will be given first priority for the new apartments.
But, some public housing advocates worry the affordable apartments won’t be cheap enough for a typical family in need of public housing.
NYCHA said about half the privately owned apartments will be affordable to families making 60% of the median income for the area, which is $49,000 for a family of four.
Chester said the project will likely take 2 and half years to complete.