NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Harlem housing project has a new look on the horizon.
The New York City Housing Authority just announced the developers for a $260 million investment into the Frederick Samuel Apartments, and the partnership is marking a turning point for how projects are prioritized.
The sprawling Frederick Samuel campus consists of 42 century-old buildings containing 660 apartments. They have not had major repairs in two decades.
“We’ve had bedbugs, but we’ve had more mold, and we’ve had also leaks in the infrastructure,” said tenant association president Diana Blackwell.
Blackwell has been fighting for improvements for years. Now, with help from the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program and a public-private partnership, NYCHA is finally taking action.
“Brand new kitchens, brand new bathrooms, flooring, et cetera, upgrades to sustainability measures,” said NYCHA real estate development executive vice president Jonathan Gouveia. “All of that is going to be done, and we sort of had a sense of that, but it was upon talking to the residents and starting to understand some of their other needs… there’s going to be a real investment in creating interesting and vibrant community spaces here.”
For the first time in a NYCHA redevelopment, a tenant team was included in the conversation from day one.
“They didn’t say ‘This is what they need,’” said Blackwell. “They said, ‘What do you need?’ They heard us, and it means a lot.”
Also for the first time, the development team is made up entirely of minority-owned firms. Genesis Companies and Lemor Development Group both have roots in Harlem and specialize in rehabbing buildings like the Frederick Samuels Apartments.
“We’re based here and live here,” said Genesis President and CEO Karim Hutson. “If we own a building, they tell me all the problems that I ought to get it fixed right away. And so I think it makes a difference.”
Hutson’s goal is to help his community for generations to come, bringing the tenants new gardens, public art and space for workforce training in a brand new community center.
“People are going to care,” said Blackwell. “You’re going to see crime go down. You’re going to see people get active. We’re going to provide jobs for them. They’re going to get jobs that will give them a skill that they can work here, but they can also go outside of NYCHA and work, maybe have a career, so this is a good start for them.”
The redevelopment is expected to be complete in the next two years, but tenants will not have to move out while they wait. They will be able to watch the transformation in their apartments as it takes place.
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