The Amsterdam Addition, a 175-unit, 27-story building constructed in 1974, is virtually indistinguishable from any other public housing under the New York City Housing Authority’s domain. But unlike most federal public housing in the city, Amsterdam Addition, along with 20 other properties, was developed by the city and state. And when the State Legislature cut funding to public housing, the housing authority had to take money from federal properties to make up the difference at state and city properties.
Now, officials have secured federal stimulus funds for rehabilitation work on the 21 city and state housing authority properties. The State Legislature passed a law Feb. 26 to authorize this process, allowing the developments to immediately receive $400 million, plus $75 million a year for operating expenses.
“Now we have that revenue stream to help us run the largest public housing authority in the country,” said Earl Andrews, the housing authority’s vice-chairman, at a March 24 Amsterdam Addition tenants meeting.
Amsterdam Addition, which spans the area between West 64th and 65th streets from Amsterdam to West End avenues, will get $4.9 million for rehabilitation construction. The money will go toward concrete parapets, brickwork and a roof replacement project. Work will start within the next few weeks and the money must be used by March 2012.
The funding will also be used to clean up scaffolding, which many Amsterdam Addition tenants say is an eyesore and has been treated as a garbage receptacle. Also, per federal guidelines, all apartments must be brought up to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s code. This will be the first time in decades that such upgrades will be made.
“It’s about damn time,” beamed Pat Ryan, the tenant association president, after the recent tenant meeting in the building lobby.
Many tenants who showed up to the housing authority’s presentation hoped the money would be used to address other problems in their apartments.
“It’s a good thing to try to fix up the neighborhood, but what we really need is our apartments fixed up,” said tenant Janet Robinson.
Ryan initially agreed that complaints about faulty appliances, elevators and long waits for repairs needed attention. But housing authority officials stressed that the building’s foundation should take priority.
“At first, to be honest, I said ‘They got to be kidding me,’” said Ryan, the tenant association president. “But the foundation has got to be fixed before you fix anything in the people’s apartments.”
The funding, however, did come with certain conditions. To federalize these 21 city and state housing authority properties, the buildings had to be transferred to a third party. In this case, that is the Housing Partnership Development Corporation, which facilitates partnerships with the government and private organizations to develop affordable housing. The housing authority still owns the land and will manage day-to-day operations.
Also, the housing authority was required to work with a private company, Citi Community Capital, a division of financial firm Citigroup, to raise funds for physical improvements.
State Sen. Tom Duane, who represents the Amsterdam Addition and one other property affected by the change, said the money will help the cash-strapped housing authority avoid service cuts and improve maintenance.
“The legislation,” Duane said, “will eliminate a large portion of NYCHA’s annual budget gap and enable the authority to preserve programs and services that are essential not only for residents, but for all New Yorkers who wish to ensure affordable public housing for generations to come.”
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