NEW YORK - Major renovations are underway across 16 New York City Housing Authority properties in Upper Manhattan. Private developers started demo one year ago, but they aim to show the transformation is about more than the buildings.
These days, Olga Lauriano is proud to show off her home. She serves as tenant association president at 99 Fort Washington, where she has lived for 22 years.
"The apartments were completely falling apart and nobody was listening to us," Lauriano said about her previous experiences.
Some areas still show where the hospital-turned-subsidized senior living turned into a nightmare, with leaky ceilings and plumbing problems plaguing residents in the past.
"NYCHA needs about $40 billion," pointed out Amy Stokes, assistant vice president at Monadnock Development, one of the project's partners. "That is really never going to come, in my opinion. I hope it does. But I think that we need to be, you know, thinking about other solutions."
Stokes helped develop the public-private partnership program, Permanent Affordability Commitment Together, known as PACT, when she was a NYCHA employee. Now Stokes helps lead the team developing the 16 properties known as the Manhattan Bundle, inside and out.
One thousand of 1,700 apartments are already complete.
"As we've gone through the renovation process, people see that we're doing what we said we were going to do," Stokes said.
"They're young people, but yet they understand," Lauriano said, smiling. "I think they must have been briefed. You're going into seniors, you know, and you have to take your time with them. And they do."
The PACT Renaissance Collaborative, or PRC, brought together developers and service providers with experience in affordable housing to lease and manage the NYCHA-owned properties.
"We're not here to say, get out," said Monadnock's vice president of affordable housing Pierre Downing. "We're here to stay, stay, thrive, build, disrupt. Why not? Be the change you want to see."
Downing grew up in a subsidized home and wants to break the cycle for other families.
"I love that room," Lauriano said. "Nobody's ever going to take that away from me. It's beautiful."
NYCHA provided a statement, saying, "The apartment renovations and infrastructure upgrades happening at Fort Washington Houses are the latest example of NYCHA's resident-led PACT program that has dramatically transformed the quality of life for more than 35,000 families in public housing. From the start, Fort Washington residents told NYCHA the improvements that they want and worked with the Authority to craft detailed renovation plans, bringing more than $271 million in capital funding and amenities to this development – and 15 other sites across New York City."
Despite bringing on private developers, NYCHA still owns the buildings, and rent remains at 30% of a resident's income.
The renovations at all 16 properties are on track to be complete in two more years.
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