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Harlem Tenants Protest Building ID Plan

By Jeff Mays | March 20, 2012 8:01am
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 of a 1,200-unit apartment complex at Broadway and 135th Street held a 12-hour protest against a plan by management to require them to have photo id to enter the building.

Chanting "Enough is enough!" the residents, joined by representatives of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, state Assemblymen Keith Wright and City Councilman Robert Jackson, said complex owner Urban American Management should have consulted with residents about ways to improve safety before instituting the plan.

"I feel disrespected," said Claudia Anderson-Smith, 64, a retired courts worker who has lived in the complex since it opened and said she wasn't even consulted about the plan.

"The only information I've got has been from other tenants."

Under the proposal, 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.

"This is not a prison," said Alicia Barksdale, president of the 3333 Broadway Tenants Association.

Some residents worried that the photo identification could leave them at risk if they lost the card since their picture and address would be on it. Many, including college students, have roommates to make ends meet. Also, none of the five buildings have working intercoms, residents said.

Barksdale also cited concerns about police or fire being able to access the building in an emergency. She said tenants collected 700 signatures Monday against the plan.

A spokesman for Urban American Management said the company was trying to work with residents. The company said the identification system was an effort to upgrade security at the complex.

But Cory Ortega, from Wright's office, said residents did not have an "open line of communication with management." He added, "There are questions we would like to ask management."

Stringer fired off a letter to Urban American Management saying he had "deep concerns" about the plan. A similar one hasn't work well at Heritage on Fifth on East 110th Street, formerly known as Schomburg Plaza, where residents have called the system "chronically dysfunctional," he said.

"Now, at 3333 Broadway, a development that is two times larger, Urban American is poised to implement this same failed system, despite the repeated and prolonged interruption of essential services that the picture identification swipe cards have caused at Schomburg Plaza," Stringer wrote.

Barbara Marshall, chair of Community Board 9's housing committee, called the plan an "invasion of privacy."

Marilyn Hernandez, 40, a housekeeper, said she was concerned the identification card will allow the company to track her 20-year-old daughter's comings and goings.

"They will know her habits of when she is coming and going," Hernandez said.

If management wanted to upgrade security, they should start with an intercom, she said. The way security is set up now, guests have to sign in before being let up to residents' apartments unannounced.

"How do they know I want this person coming to my door. They could say they are coming to visit me and then come into the building and go places they are not supposed to," said Hernandez.

The complex was built as affordable housing in 1976 as part of the Mitchell-Lama program. The landlord opted out of the program in 2005, and many residents worry that as Columbia University expands nearby, rents will soon rise.