Affordable Housing

NYCHA owns a bunch of brownstones on the Upper West Side—and they're in abysmal condition

By Virginia K. Smith | May 18, 2017 - 3:59PM 

Some of these Upper West Side townhouses are owned and operated by NYCHA.

Photo: S. Jhoanna Robledo

For tenants struggling to find affordable housing, getting a reasonably priced rental in a city-owned Manhattan brownstone might sound preferable, brownstones less crowded and more intimate than high-rises. But for some residents of Upper West Side brownstones owned by the New York City Housing Authority, the homes have become a very mixed blessing, as Pix11 recently reported.

"We are the forgotten brownstones of NYCHA. We are 36 buildings between 89th and 93rd streets," one resident told the station. "We are the last to receive services."

Inside the seemingly-stately townhouses, tenants live in horrendous conditions, with exposed and damaged gas pipes, windows kept together with duct tape, damaged floors, and ceilings that appear to be near-collapse. In spite of the problems, many are scared to come forward for fear of retaliation, and of losing their affordable apartments. (You can watch the full video below or read the full article here.)

After the report, NYCHA reportedly sent inspectors to deal with the problems in these particular buildings, and a spokesperson told Pix11, "These conditions are unacceptable. We can and will do more to make sure that every NYCHA family has a well maintained home."

(We've reached out to several housing organizations for comment on the situation, and will update if we hear back.)

However, while the brownstone setting may be somewhat unusual, the complaints are hardly new. As we wrote earlier in the week, a Harlem resident recently called into the "Ask the Mayor" segment on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show calling conditions in NYCHA-owned buildings "an absolute horror story," and asking de Blasio about his plans to remedy the problem.

(For his part, de Blasio pointed to a new $1 billion city program for improvements in public housing, but with the federal government slashing funds for housing programs, fully overhauling the system will be an uphill battle, to say the least.)

As for the townhouses, it's not actually uncommon for NYCHA to offer rentals in buildings beyond the more typical, large housing projects, though they're not necessarily well-managed. Back in April, we wrote about Habitat For Humanity NYC buying delapidated "zombie" homes that had been under city ownership, and will now be restored and offered to buyers through Habitat NYC's homeownership program (more details on that here).

If you're curious about other homes currently owned by the city, NYC Open Data has a full interactive map, which you can play around with here.

And if you're a tenant living in a NYCHA building beset by issues, the city has a guide to reporting problems here.


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