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City's First Complex with Public and Affordable Housing in the Works

By Jeff Mays | August 24, 2011 6:28pm | Updated on August 24, 2011 9:14pm
The Randolph Houses on 114th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
The Randolph Houses on 114th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — The city is planning to overhaul a run-down Harlem block - renovating 36 historic, but dilapidated buildings at the Randolph Houses with the first mixture of public and affordable housing units in the city.

The New York City Housing Authority and Department of Housing Preservation and Development have issued a request for proposals to create 140 units of public housing and a minimum of 155 units of affordable housing at the tenements on 114th Street between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. The buildings were built in the 1890s and acquired by NYCHA in the 1970s.

This mixed-finance development marks the first collaboration between the NYCHA and HPD that will result in public housing — units that receive federal subsidies through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — and affordable housing units being placed together, the agencies said. Other cities already have similar developments completed or in the works.

"This initiative is a first by utilizing a HUD mixed finance program combining public and non-public housing in a single development. We look forward to the successful rehabilitation of Randolph Houses as a model for future redevelopment," NYCHA Chairman John Rhea said in a statement.

The development consists of 22 buildings on the south side of the street and 14 buildings on the north side. The buildings on the south side of the street are currently vacant and in need of extensive renovations. The 14 buildings on the north side of the street are occupied by NYCHA residents.

A project to repair the tenements has been in the works since 1999, said Amy Chester, NYCHA's deputy director for development.

After deciding that rehabilitation would be too costly, NYCHA decided to demolish the properties on the south side of the street. From 2000 to 2006, residents were relocated across the street and to other NYCHA properties.

Area residents have long-complained about loitering, gambling and other quality of life issues on the vacant side of the property.

A man was stabbed to death last week on the block at 277 W. 114th St., near Frederick Douglass Boulevard. And on Aug. 8, Jamik White, 39, was shot and killed in in front of 271 W. 114th St.

The New York State Historical Preservation Office eventually ruled that the buildings were eligible for the state and national registry of historic places and could not be destroyed.

In the spring of 2010, NYCHA, after consulting with the SHPO, decided to perform gut rehabs of the interior of the buildings while preserving historical elements of the facades such as the stoops. NYCHA will provide $40 million for the developers while HPD will provide approximately $11 million, said Chester. Proposals are due back Nov. 7.

"This is essentially the only way to build public housing right now," Chester said of the plan. A similar project is being developed for Prospect Plaza in Brooklyn's Ocean Hill neighborhood.

Once completed, NYCHA tenants will be moved to the newly-renovated buildings on the south side of the block and the units on the north side will be developed into affordable rentals.

A quarter of the rental units on the north side must be affordable to households earning 60 percent or less of the area's median income which is $49,080 for a family of four. The remaining 75 units must be affordable to families who earn up to 130 percent of area's median income or $106,340 for a family of four.

"At the Randolph Houses we are not just breathing a new life into these buildings - we are creating new homes, new opportunities, and a more affordable and sustainable New York," HPD
Commissioner Mathew Wambua said in a statement.