Harlem Tenants Meet Landlords Over ID Plan That Raised Privacy Concerns

By Jeff Mays on April 5, 2012 8:54am 

Alicia Barksdale, president of the 3333 Broadway Tenants Association, said the plan to force resident to get picture identifications was ill-advised.
Alicia Barksdale, president of the 3333 Broadway Tenants Association, said the plan to force resident to get picture identifications was ill-advised.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — Residents and management at a 1,200-unit apartment complex in West Harlem have agreed to try and iron out their differences over a new photo identification plan that residents feel violates their privacy.

Assemblyman Keith Wright sat in on a meeting of tenants at 3333 Broadway and owners Urban American Management.

Residents said they felt disrespected by the plan and the haphazard way management tried to implement it — even as Joshua Eisenberg, of Urban American, said the goal was to improve safety in the five-building complex.

"You act like we are nobodies and you can do whatever you want," one resident said.

As DNAinfo first reported, only residents listed on a lease would receive a swipe card with their photo and the name of which of the complex's five towers they live in.

They would only be allowed to enter their own building. Guests would have to call their hosts via an intercom system that would be installed with the new identification system.

Some residents worried that the photo identification could leave them at risk if they lost the card, since their picture and building number would be on it. Many, including college students, have roommates to make ends meet. Residents are also concerned by what data would be captured by using the card.

Alicia Barksdale, president of the 3333 Broadway Tenants Association, said Urban American also did a poor job of notifying residents about the plans and telling them why they were being implemented.

Urban American Portfolio Manager Doryne Isley said she met with the tenants association but acknowledged that things could have been done better.

"I'll take responsibility for the communication," said Isley. "I should have seen that a better job of communication was done."

But that doesn't change the necessity for security, she said.

Eisenberg said there were 51 arrests inside the building and 55 in the immediate vincinty in 2011. Building security often finds people in the hallways who said they live there but have no way of proving it.

Residents at the massive 1,200-unit apartment complex at 3333 Broadway in West Harlem say they will fight a plan by management to make tenants get picture identification swipe cards to enter the building because it violates their civil rights.
Residents at the massive 1,200-unit apartment complex at 3333 Broadway in West Harlem say they will fight a plan by management to make tenants get picture identification swipe cards to enter the building because it violates their civil rights.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

"We find people in the building all the time who claim they live here or are visiting. They don't live here and they don't belong here," Eisenberg said.

He said the management company also deserves credit for replacing the boiler system and renovating the lobby, among other repairs it has completed since taking over the building.

But residents said it feels like the repairs and identification cards are aimed at attracting new residents and pushing out lower-income, working-class and older tenants.

The building was formerly part of the state's Mitchell-Lama program, designed to create affordable housing for moderate-income residents. Since the building left the program seven years ago, residents said they have felt pressured by rising rents and the push to attract new tenants with renovated apartments.

"They only want the middle-class tenants," said Luis Tejada, executive director of the Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center. "They want to displace affordable housing and people of color."

Barksdale said, "It seems like you only care about the new people and not the long-term people who are invested here."

Wright said it was important that the two sides stay at the table and work out their differences.

"Something like this is a major thing for long-standing residents," he said. "It's looking like the upgrades are for newer residents."

The tenants association will put their concerns about the security plan in writing and also put together a list of ways to improve security at the complex. Isley said management will review the concerns, take them into consideration and then issue a response, but did not commit to any changes to the plan.

"I need to hear your concerns to see if we are willing to make any concessions," Isley said.

Longtime residents said they left the meeting with some hope mixed with skepticism.

"I think it's a wait-and-see situation," said Phyllis Adams, who has lived in the building since it opened in 1976.  "They may do what they want to anyway."

Barksdale said it's a start.

"I don't think they got the meaning of what we are saying, but it's out on the floor and we are willing to work with management," Barksdale said. 

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