By Carol Tannenhauser

The thousands of Upper West Siders who live in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments are likely to face more slow repairs and diminishing services — and possibly rent hikes — because of President Trump’s proposed cuts to the city’s public housing budget. And it’s time to engage both NYCHA tenants and the broader community in efforts to resist the cuts, said Jeannette Rausch, chair of the Housing Committee of Community Board 7 at a meeting on Monday night with CB 7’s Task Force on Public Housing.

“One of the reasons the Upper West Side is such a great place is that we still have a mix of economic diversity, which is because we have our public housing residents,” said Rausch. “We’re looking at NYCHA units as part of our affordable housing mix. And we’re looking at ways we can work together to do all we can to push for strengthening funding for public housing.”

There are 16 NYCHA developments on the UWS, consisting of 87 buildings, with 5,451 units. NYCHA residents generally pay 30% of their family incomes in rent.

“I want to bring NYCHA tenants into the fold and let them know we want to do something about this,” said Madelyn Innocent, chair of the Task Force. “I want to see them come out and save their homes. That’s it in a nutshell: save your home.”

Innocent herself is a resident of the Frederick Douglass Houses on Amsterdam Avenue, between 100th and 104th streets. She joined Community Board 7 four years ago and is one of three members living in NYCHA housing on the 50-person body. She spent the last year meeting with and surveying NYCHA tenants – 63% of whom said they never heard of CB 7 – determining their needs and concerns, and educating them about their rights.

In her view, the education needs to be mutual. “No one really knows the plight of NYCHA tenants,” Innocent said. Nor do they have an accurate perception of who the people who live in NYCHA developments are.

“I hear the negative stuff that others say about NYCHA residents,” she said. “I want to dispel that stigma, let people know that just because you live in public housing, you’re not a bad person. Half of NYCHA’s non-disabled, adult tenants are working people who would be hard pressed to afford housing near their jobs in the city without this resource. Others are seniors or very poor households who would otherwise be homeless.”

“My biggest thing is that I want to give NYCHA residents hope,” Innocence concluded. “I talk to residents every day, all over the city, and all I hear is, ‘Oh, they’re not going to do anything.’ We have to show them a better way of thinking. They…” she caught herself. “We live in filth, we deal with crime, we deal with infrastructure. If you live in public housing and never go outside of it and see how other people live, you don’t know how you should live. We need to inform people of their rights and invite those who are in despair and can’t move because of income, to become active citizens.”

The meeting was attended by representatives from community boards 6 and 9, underscoring the impact of this issue city-wide. Innocent and the other board members will continue to consider strategies to mobilize and educate the community.

NEWS | 34 comments | permalink
    1. UWSHebrew says:

      “One of the reasons the Upper West Side is such a great place is that we still have a mix of economic diversity, which is because we have our public housing residents”. I DISAGREE.

      • Sherman says:

        I disagree as well.

        There aren’t too many people who believe that housing projects are a benefit to the community.

        • Effy says:

          I agree with UWSHebrew (and, I am a person of color, if anyone decides to get all “sensitive”.).

        • Christina says:

          Sherman… I grew up on the Upper West Side and I had a couple of friends from public school who were from the projects and they are VERY upstanding citizens of society! So please DO NOT stereotype!

      • Sarah says:

        Shame on you. Some day you’re going to be old and feeble and it will be these people you don’t want in your neighborhood taking care of you. You’d better hope they have kinder hearts than you do.

    2. Bruce Bernstein says:

      hurrah and “props” to Jeannette Rausch and Madelyn Innocent. Good work, ladies!!

      and thanks to WSR and Carolyn Tannehauser for this article. I urge more coverage of NYCHA and other forms of affordable housing in the district — including supportive housing and homeless, rent stabilized tenants, etc.

      the UWS is not all rich people. it is an economically diverse community. Some don’t like that; many of us do.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        Bruce, do you have to walk by the Douglas Houses to get to the subway? I do. Last summer, at 4 in the afternoon, I HAD TO DUCK BEHIND A PARKED CAR when shots ran out from the Douglas Houses. Yes, it’s all fine and dandy for you lucky individuals who live in the 70’s and 80’s, but not me at 102nd. Just last week we had a shooting at a barber shop in broad daylight. I want to move but I have to make more income to do so, which I am trying to do. Please, you and others who preach about how wonderful the public housing is should live one week here. Your nerves would be frayed and you would not dare walk outside when it is dark.

        • chuck says:

          Bruce – and I – live on a block in the W 90’s – a block with a few buildings of housing for those in need. Problems? Noise? Disturbances? Yes, occasionally. But this is NYC. Part of the price we pay for the privilege of living in this vibrant community is learning to accept others who are not like us and trying to exhibit the kind of compassion we might appreciate were we to find ourselves in similarly dire circumstances. Try to develop a bit of empathy.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            well said, Chuck.

          • Paul RL says:

            Sorry, Chuck, but having compassion toward those in need, and the “price we pay for the privilege of living…” in NYC shouldn’t have to include ducking bullets, navigating drug dealers, getting harassed by angry vagrants or, in the case of the Pomander Walk superintendent, getting stabbed. The clusters of dangerous, badly managed supportive housing in the West 90s have made it less safe for everyone. Your empathy should extend beyond the walls of those buildings and include your neighbors who would like to simply walk down their sidewalks in peace.

        • sg says:

          Bruce lives in a fantasy world…you know the utopia where everyone has the same quality of life (or lack thereof). Actions don’t have consequences and we don’t hold people accountable for their actions in this world either.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          you have no idea where i live, where i work, nor where i walk. so let’s not make assumptions.

          i suggest that you make a greater effort to get to know your neighbors in public housing. there are some useful contacts listed in the article.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            my point is that your neighbors in public housing seem to be working to improve the community for all. you might want to work with them. they are preaching a pretty positive message.

        • Sarah says:

          Those projects have been there for decades. That means you *chose* to move close to them, doubtless because, for all your airs, you don’t make enough to live further south. Why then are you complaining like these people’s existence is an aggression against you?

          There’s really nothing more contemptible than people just a bit further up the ladder stamping on the fingers of the people just below.

          • UWSHebrew says:

            When I moved here, I did not realize I would have deal with men walking their rottweilers without a leash, and I have to cross the street to avoid the dog. Or groups of men hanging around street corners at all hours doing activities that are against the law. Which is why you’ll see empty heroin glassine envelopes on the sidewalk on Sunday mornings. Sarah, blaming me for not realizing what I would encounter is pathetic.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              you didn’t walk around the neighborhood to see what it was like before you signed the lease?

            • GG says:

              That’s it?! some envelopes and some doggies?? You wouldn’t have lasted a month in the ’70’s or 80’s.:)

              Maybe urban life isn’t for you, my friend.

              I remember you complaining about all your neighbors using food stamps too. You do realize that you aren’t the Mayor, right?

              Hold up everyone!!! This man’s quality of life isn’t living up to his expectations of the big city. Maybe you shouldn’t have based those expectations on “Friends” & “Seinfeld”

            • UWSHebrew says:

              GG — your twisting and oversimplification of my past and present comments shows you have no productive thoughts regarding said comments. I harbor no ill will towards anyone, I just find the statement “public housing residents is part of what makes the Upper West Side such a great place”, to be completely inane, and I expanded on my opinion.

            • Mark says:

              So you chose to live there and didn’t do your homework before moving in.
              Actions have consequences. Whining won’t solve anything.

            • Sarah says:

              (a) Not researching your neighborhood before moving in is on you. If you want a pristine environment, be prepared to pay for it.

              (b) “Which is why you’ll see empty heroin glassine envelopes on the sidewalk on Sunday mornings.” This is a fabrication. I walk through this same neighborhood myself on a daily basis. This being the city, there is bound to be occasional drug paraphernalia sighted, but one does not routinely find these streets littered with dime bags. Believe me, I grew up in a neighborhood where one *did* see such things and that stretch is nothing like that.

              If the projects weren’t there, you probably couldn’t afford to live in the neighborhood at all. You’d be up in Harlem! Which might actually do you some good.

            • Mark says:

              Sarah is absolutely right.
              It’s always interesting to see people on the Right yammer on about personal responsibility but who don’t follow their own suggestions.
              You picked it. Now live with it.

      • LC says:

        Bruce, I live on 103rd, right next to one of the Douglass Houses, and I certainly don’t live in fear. I frequently walk through the complex. Yes, even after dark. Never had a problem in almost 20 years. Yes, there’s crime in the neighborhood – this is a large city, after all. Get over yourself.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          LC, you’re directing this at the wrong person. please review the thread above. You mean to direct it to UWSHebrew.

          And i AGREE with you, and with chuck. thank you.

      • GG says:

        ok…and replace with who?? or what?? It’s easy to slash and burn. What’s hard is to create and/or build.

        What else you got?

    3. Gretchen says:

      Aside from dealing with NYCHA’s mismanagement and lack of oversight, NYCHA needs to move quickly with its program of selling off open space for market-rate residential development, which would greatly help offset some of the looming federal budget cuts and boost the surrounding neighborhoods. If deferred maintenance is allowed to continue as it is now, the buildings will eventually be deemed structurally deficient and uninhabitable, and face the wrecking ball as others have around the country.

    4. Eliza says:

      The irony is that NYCHA maintenance does not meet the standards that are mandated for private owners of rent stabilized buildings. The city is violating its own rules. Perhaps it should file violations against itself. A great mess having nothing to do with reality. It’s all politics.

    5. Scott says:

      Sorry, I can’t work up much sympathy for NYCHA residents.

      They have their own private garbage collection and their own private parking lots. Think about that for a second. Supportive housing — and it comes with off street parking! (for a nominal fee)

      Sure, there’s violence, but whose fault is that? Most of these families caught up in gang activity refuse to cooperate with law enforcement, and as we saw in the recent shooting, may even be aiding and abetting felons. NYCHA does nothing about these problem tenants.

      • LC says:

        Those parking lots are open to anyone. I see them as an asset to the neighborhood. I’ve been parking in one for years, paying the non-resident rate of approximately $65 a month, which is a steal in Manhattan.

    6. Effy says:

      We should turn the projects into middle class housing for teachers, firefighters, police officers and other people who would actually benefit from and provide a benefit to one of the most expensive places in the world to live. Just need some proviso that it doesn’t mean their kids can become slackers having kids they can’t afford and expect to keep the housing.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        did you even bother to read the article above?

        how do you know there are not teachers, firefighters, cops currently living in public housing? look into facts a little more.

        more than half NYCHA adult residents who are not seniors or disabled are working people.

    7. Independent says:

      Paul RL and UWS Hebrew: Bravo, gentlemen! I strongly commend your comments.

    8. Maria says:

      The mix of income levels is important to the quality of life BUT why don’t they rent out unused parking spaces to local residents? On 100th street alone there are always 20 or 30 empty spaces in the NYCHA lots. And if the residents are nice normal folks, why do they need an extra police force for them.