(The Baruch Houses in New York’s Lower East Side. 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)
The Urban Critic: This week Mayor Bill De Blasio announced an overhaul of the 10 year plan for the New York City Housing Authority’s cash and building infrastructure crisis. The specifics of this plan can be sourced (HERE) for the reader to gain an overall knowledge, but here at our blog, we are particularly interested in one aspect of this proposal: The leasing of land located in Public Housing developments for the construction of new housing which will target lower to middle income residents.
This plan, in all respects, is a good one with solid backing and is well intended. The strategy would call for the construction of new residential buildings in-between existing (but decrepit) public housing towers. In theory, adding new housing to a City which desperately needs it can only be a net positive. The flaw in this approach is the lack of a solution for all of the existing housing which is in complete disrepair.
Asbestos laden, mold infested and with crumbling infrastructure; These buildings built during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s deserve to be a part of this overall masterplan. Namely, they should be systematically removed and demolished as new housing is built. In turn, residents of these aging structures should be moved, building by building, into these newly constructed housing blocks in order to avoid societal displacement.
(An older image of the Lower East Side in transformation, sometime during the 1950’s)
Existing NYCHA buildings are a monetary drain on The City and its resources. The cost to maintain and upgrade is prohibitive and in many ways the new plan underserves the residents of existing NYCHA buildings by granting housing to those on a backlog instead of improving the lives of current tenants.
We argue that both can be done in simultaneous fashion. The City can construct twice the amount of new building stock adjacent to the existing housing (there is plenty of space), then move the residents of these buildings into them once they are finished. There would also be a surplus of new housing for population waiting in the lottery. It could be a win-win.
The point being is that part of the plan should address the third world living conditions currently existing, and not just kick this issue down the road. In order to improve on The Urban Condition from society’s standpoint, improved housing should be a right for ALL.