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City-Owned Apartments Uptown Left Empty Amid Housing Crisis: Critics

By Carolina Pichardo | October 24, 2016 3:44pm | Updated on October 24, 2016 3:58pm
 The apartment building 21 Arden St. in Inwood – as well as 2110 Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights – are city-owned and have been vacant for years, residents said.
The apartment building 21 Arden St. in Inwood – as well as 2110 Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights – are city-owned and have been vacant for years, residents said.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Two city-run apartment buildings uptown are boarded up and vacant — leaving dozens of units unable to be used amid an affordable housing crisis in the area, critics say.

The city's Housing Preservation Development owns 21 Arden St. in Inwood and 2110 Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights — which have room for a combined 26 apartments that could be used for affordable housing, according to activist Martin Collins of Inwood Preservation, a group dedicated to preserving uptown as an affordable, low-rise area.

“These boarded-up apartment buildings in our community are an embarrassment,” Collins said. “At a time when everyone is talking affordable housing, here are 26 units that should be fixed. The preservation of our existing affordable housing should be first and foremost, and it is time HPD made a commitment to this community that it has not fully made in the past decade.”

According to Department of Buildings records, 21 Arden St. has been owned by HPD since December 1991, while 2110 Amsterdam Ave. has been owned by the city since May 1978. Both properties are five-story buildings that could be renovated to create 26 units of affordable housing, according to a resolution passed by the Community Board 12 in 2014.

Although HPD wouldn’t confirm how long the properties have been vacant, Moving Forward Unidos wrote in a letter to Community Board 12 that the 21 Arden St. property was vacated eight years ago, while 2110 Amsterdam became empty “several years ago.” Both properties, the group wrote in the letter, were boarded-up “waiting for funds to rehab.”

The city's HPD said it is currently working with the Northern Manhattan Improvement Cooperation (NMIC) to renovate 21 Arden as part of one of the agency’s cooperative loan programs to redevelop the property. HPD spokeswoman Juliette Pierre-Antoine said the city hopes to finance the redevelopment of the property within the next fiscal year.

She added that 2110 Amsterdam is currently part of an HPD program to transfer city-owned buildings to sponsors selected through a request-for-qualifications (RFQ) process, she said.

"The building is in poor condition and was deemed unsafe to inhabit,” said Pierre-Antoine.

"The original tenants of record were temporarily relocated and will return once the sponsor and the City can structure appropriate financing for the rehabilitation of the property. As with 21 Arden, HPD hopes to finance the redevelopment of this property within the next fiscal year."

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who last week called out landlords for sitting on empty apartments in Inwood that could be used for affordable housing, said he’s been in talks with HPD to rehabilitate the property on 21 Arden St.

Now advocates are asking CB12's Housing and Human Services Committee to make the buildings' renovation their top priority in their executive budget for the upcoming year.

"We all want affordable housing," Collins said in a letter to CB12 for an upcoming public hearing on its prospective executive budget, adding that ranking HPD's rehabilitation of 21 Arden St. and 2110 Amsterdam Ave. "will send a very strong message." 

CB12 will vote on their capital budget items during the general board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Yeshiva University Weissberg Commons Room at Belfer Hall, 2495 Amsterdam Ave. off W. 184th St.

The other housing requests on CB12's agenda include the construction of more permanent, long-term affordable housing units in the area; creating housing for veterans, seniors, those with HIV/AIDS and homeless families and adults transitioning into permanent housing. Other possible funding items include paying for preservation efforts of approximately 2,000 units in rent-regulated and older properties.