May 4, 2022

New Windows and More for the Seniors at Edison Arms!

by UNHP
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Edison Arms, a 70-unit low-income senior citizen housing development developed by Fordham University and Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation in 1993 with HUD 202 funds is undergoing a series of energy-efficient improvements - much to the delight of the tenants and the social worker, Altagracia! Altagracia provides individual assistance and coordinates recreational services for the residents and works for the management company Rosehill Housing Management. UNHP’s Director of Real Estate, Brendan Mitchell is overseeing the renovations.

Thanks to roughly $500,000 of funding secured by UNHP through the NYS Weatherization Assistance Program, Edison Arms will undergo a series of energy-efficient renovations, including the addition of new refrigerators and windows for every resident. The NYS Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is funding the majority of the work as part of its mission to decrease energy consumption and lower heating and cooling rates for low-income renters and homeowners in New York State. The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition has run this program in the Bronx for decades and provided technical assistance to the project by developing an approved scope, qualifying tenants, selecting contractors through a bidding process, and most importantly delivering the funds. In addition to new windows and refrigerators, Edison Arms will receive a replacement boiler, in-unit, and public area lighting, installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, public area forced hot and cold, and other smaller items. Developed by Fordham University and the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation and managed by Rosehill Housing Management, Edison Arms has offered affordable housing for seniors in the Bronx since 1993. Edison Arms is built on a once abandoned lot that had previously housed Thomas A. Edison’s movie studio. Having discovered the connection with Thomas Edison, FBHC decided to name the development Edison Arms in a nod to its Bronx history. Community-developed affordable housing needs dedicated management and ongoing updates and renovations to remain affordable, stable, and decent. With its combination of community-based owners, technical assistance providers, and specialized senior housing management, as well as this infusion of low-cost renovation funds, Edison Arms continues to provide stable, affordable housing into its third decade. Read more about UNHP’s work to ensure ongoing affordability in community-developed housing here.

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Edison Arms is independent-living affordable housing for low-income seniors developed by Fordham University and FBHC using HUD funds. Seniors pay 30% of their incomes towards the rent and have their own apartments complete with kitchens. Edison Arms has a community room with a small kitchen as well as a full-time social worker on site. The community room is open again after being closed during Covid and tenants can participate in organized activities such as arts and crafts, entertainment, and cards. Altagracia, the social worker helps to organize group activities and assists tenants individually with a variety of issues such as healthcare management and navigating public programs. The building is handicap accessible which allows for seniors to use mobility aids such as walkers and wheelchairs. Many of the residents have home healthcare aides that assist with daily activities, like shopping, food preparation, and self-care.

A few words from the Edison Arms Residents

Angela M. moved from Manhattan to Edison Arms in 2011 and has lived here for 12 years. Besides attending church services or going shopping around the neighborhood, Angela spends most of her time socializing in the community center. Losing the space of the community center because of the pandemic was difficult for Angela; staying in her apartment all day and having little space to walk resulted in lasting knee pain which bothers her to this day. Luckily, she had the help of her daughters and Edison Arm’s social worker, Altagracia, to assist her with groceries, medical issues, or even just getting a glass of water. Although she is still weary of public transportation and going into Manhattan, she’s glad to return to walking outside most days. But, what Angela is most excited about is her new fridge and windows. While the windows are being installed, Angela is thrilled to already have her new refrigerator. With its larger dimensions, she is happy to have more space to organize her items without sacrificing cleanliness.

Gustavo B. tests out the new fridge.
A dapper and always well-dressed Gustavo B. tests out the new fridge.

After previously living in an unclean, cockroach-infested apartment, Gustavo B. is excited to have transitioned to Edison Arms 15 months ago. Currently, Gustavo was unable to open his old windows and they were not well insulated from the cold or the loud music that his neighbors occasionally play on the weekends. However, in anticipation of the renovation for the summer, Gustavo can’t wait to be able to let fresh air into his apartment and finally get some peace and quiet on Saturday nights.

Altagracia and Francisca admire the new windows!
Altagracia and Francisca admire the new windows.

Francisca Navarro waits no time to decorate after the installation of her new windows. Not even 30 minutes have passed before Edison Arms supers, Benny and Felipe rehung Francisca’s beautiful red and white drapes, complemented by her vase of red roses and flamenco dancer figurine. After overseeing the decorations, she sits in her reclining chair and enjoys the new view with Altagracia.

Three Cheers for Senior Social Workers!

Covid has been especially difficult for seniors due to increased risks and social isolation. Social workers like Altagracia Consuegra have made a significant difference in the lives of older adults during this time; connecting seniors with services, checking in with residents, and coordinating delivered goods. During the renovation process, Altagracia has also been there for residents every step of the way. Whether it’s answering questions on when the renovations are occurring or collaborating with the supervisor on which apartments to enter at what time, Altagracia is always ready to help in any capacity she can. But what is even more impressive about Altagracia is her amazing ability to make any person feel welcome at Edison Arms. After offering water to those working on the installations, she picks up her phone to call a resident from the third floor to make sure they are prepared for the workers to enter their room. She goes door to door on each floor to make sure everyone is comfortable and happy despite the slight disruption and noise of the construction. UNHP’s Brendan Mitchell has his hands full coordinating the contractors and installation of new features; he is happy to have Altagracia as a bilingual partner to assist with tenant communication. With Altagracia there to help coordinate the tenant part of the renovation, the residents can relax knowing they are in good hands.

Banks & Bars Bonus Story!

Jerome L.
Jerome L.is happy to be back in the Bronx and finds everyone at Edison Arms friendly and happy to have a conversation.

After living in Upstate New York and Pennsylvania, native New Yorker Jerome L. is happy to be back in the Bronx and at Edison Arms. When he’s not going downtown or frequenting his favorite Italian restaurants, Jerome enjoys going to the community center where people gather to talk, craft, and more. As a self-proclaimed ‘people person,’ he was hit hard by Covid restrictions and the feeling of isolation that many experienced.

Even though he’s happy to be back in the Bronx, Jerome has some complaints. “Get more banks and Irish pubs!” Since returning to the Bronx last year, Jerome has been struggling to find a convenient bank location. Currently, the closest available branch is reachable only by public transportation, and he is required to go in person because of issues with his change of address. Jerome remembers the banks which he used to go to as a young adult in the Bronx, where the teller would “kiss you on the cheek” and ask about your family. But, these businesses closed more than 50 years ago and have not been adequately replaced in the neighborhood. Now, Jerome is greeted with a less personal, what he even describes as a “hostile” banking experience. UNHP would also like to see more banks in the Bronx and more bank branches with some branches located within easy walking distance to Jerome on Bedford Park Boulevard. In addition to advocating for more bank branches, low-cost financial services, and more ATMs, UNHP has partnered with three other non-profits to bring a credit union to the community. Upon learning about UNHP and the creation of the Bronx People’s Credit Union, Jerome quips: “sign me up, if I’m still alive!” He’s excited by the prospect of having a local and more personal bank experience in the near future. Hopefully, the anticipated Bronx People’s Credit Union and current mobile van service will save him time to finally find a decent Irish pub.

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Thank you to the Edison Arms residents and Altagracia for being part of this blog post. Special thanks to Samantha, UNHP’s new intern, for her work on the interviews and the writing of this blog. Here’s to a smooth renovation process for all! As Maisie’s Tee Shirt says ” Just Keep Smiling!” Read our interview with Maisie from 2014.
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