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NYCHA Could Get $30M to Transform Mott Haven

By Eddie Small | November 6, 2014 6:48pm
 Mill Brook Houses is one of five NYCHA developments in the Make Mott Haven... area.
Mill Brook Houses is one of five NYCHA developments in the Make Mott Haven... area.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

MOTT HAVEN — NYCHA could receive a $30 million federal grant to help with projects ranging from replacing kitchens and bathrooms in Betances Houses to creating a community school in the neighborhood.

The potential projects are included in the agency's recently completed Make Mott Haven… plan, an effort to transform the neighborhood, put together under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Choice Neighborhoods grant program.

The bulk of the funding — $25 million — would go toward major renovations of the neighborhood’s Betances Houses, with projects like replacing roofs, installing security cameras and improving lighting by staircases.

The remaining $5 million would go toward projects like creating a Health Services HUB walk-in center at Mitchel Houses and supporting Resident Training Academy, a job training program for NYCHA tenants.

Other goals of Make Mott Haven… include expanding the number of universal pre-kindergarten seats in the neighborhood, launching a local campaign on preventing and managing diabetes, and creating a greenway that connects the 149th Street Hub to Randall's Island.

The education component of the plan also aims to make sure that all children are reading at grade level by age 8. Mona Dreher, treasurer of the tenants association at Mitchel Houses, said she found this focus on literacy particularly appealing.

“I think that’s a very good idea,” she said, “because reading is the key.”

The initiative focuses on security as well, identifying 138th Street between Alexander and Cypress avenues as a pilot spot for the "Safe Spaces Initiative," a program that aims to reform dangerous areas.

This initiative would work to improve lighting and surveillance, renovate local businesses, redesign fenced-in plazas and green spaces on NYCHA property, and coordinate programming at community gardens in the area.

The Housing Authority, which contracted with the neighborhood improvement group Local Initiatives Support Corporation to put the project together, has submitted its plan to the federal government and now plans to compete to receive $30 million in implementation funds.

Make Mott Haven... was discussed at a meeting on Wednesday in the Betances Houses Community Center, where several residents and community leaders expressed support for the idea.

Cedric Loftin, district manager of Bronx Community Board 1, saw the potential to strongly improve the neighborhood.

“We feel that it’s a great plan, that as long as they can get the federal support they need to move forward, it’s going to have a great impact,” he said.

Tanya Dempsey, senior director for strategy and program development at NYCHA, pointed to multiple reasons why the plan deserved the implementation funds.

“We have the highest concentration of poverty,” she said, “and we’ve got lots of great resources to leverage the $30 million into $100 to $200 million.”

NYCHA will move forward with some aspects of the initiative before it knows whether it will receive the $30 million, according to spokeswoman Joan Lebow.

For instance, the agency is already making plans to rehabilitate Betances Houses, and it is already planting trees and extending the Randall's Island Connector, Lebow said in an email.

John Johnson, president of Mott Haven Houses, said he was most passionate about the employment and safety aspects of Make Mott Haven..., and he stressed that the area was very much in need of a revitalization.

“We just need change in the neighborhood,” he said. “We need positive change.”