Elderly housing project residents, particularly at Amsterdam Houses in the West 60’s off of Amsterdam Avenue, are being told that they have to move because they live in apartments with more bedrooms than they need.
Some seniors are being told they have to move out of their developments — and even out of the borough, said Rosalba Rodriguez, a member of Councilwoman Gale Brewer’s staff who is working on the issue. Rodriguez said she’s been talking to residents of four housing projects she works with, including Amsterdam Houses, the Amsterdam Houses Addition, Harborview on 55th Street and Wise Towers on 92nd Street.
Rodriguez said that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has known for years that some of the units in the buildings are “underoccupied”, meaning that there are fewer people living in the apartments than it can hold (basically seniors who’s kids move out suddenly are living in two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments by themselves). But NYCHA hasn’t been aggressive about pushing them out until now, and it’s freaking a lot of people out.
“They had never made these changes before,” she said. “It’s having health impacts on people.”
Rodriguez said she understands the need to make room for new families, but moving people out of their neighborhoods is unacceptable.
In a letter to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea sent last week, Brewer wrote that seniors are “alarmed.”
“It is widely recognized that seniors are vulnerable to physical and mental distress when uprooted from homes they have long occupied. They and their supporters are furious at the cavalier manner in which NYCHA is treating these residents, as though they are merely numbers to be shuffled about without regard to the harm this may cause. Ms. Curet has been in communication with NYCHA’s Family Services department and has made many referrals for assistance regarding these moves. However, she is deeply worried about the mental health of seniors who are under stress from NYCHA’s approach to downsizing.”
We contacted NYCHA for a response (Rhea apparently hasn’t responded to Brewer yet), and received the following from spokesperson Zodet Negron.
“The New York City Housing Authority faces a real crisis with more than 161,000 people on its waiting list for public housing (and another 120,000 waiting for a Section 8 vouchers). There are nearly 50,000 people in NYCHA housing units who are not living in apartments properly sized for their needs – meaning they have too many rooms for their family size. To serve families in need, it is critical that NYCHA utilize this scarce public resource as it was intended: to assist the greatest number of families eligible for affordable and subsidized housing. We will continue to work with residents as their case is reviewed annually to explore and discuss how best to meet their needs. NYCHA also will assist other families who can be better accommodated once under-utilized apartments become available.”
Negron added “This is not new, as each resident’s lease states this possibility.”
Asked why residents were being asked to move out of their neighborhoods, and even their boroughs, Negron responded: “NYCHA works with the residents to place them in an appropriately-sized unit where available. This could be within their own development or borough but it will depend on availability. For certain developments and boroughs, the wait can be longer.”