November 14, 2013

“On the Ground”: Visiting UNHP Buildings in the Northwest Bronx


It is sometimes easy, from our offices at Concourse House, to take for granted the tangible work UNHP accomplishes on a regular basis. When managing the Building Indicator Database, preparing grants, coordinating financial education programs, we do not always see neighborhood improvement in action. On October 29th, UNHP board members and staff were given the opportunity to meet community members and get a glimpse of how their work translates on the ground.

Johanna (in yellow), UNHP’s Financial Director, organized the building tour for staff and board.

The most exciting perspective for the long-time advocates of affordable housing was how much, in the words of UNHP owner’s representative, Jim Mitchell, “right ownership and right level of care” had improved the Northwest Bronx. The tour provided exterior and interior visits of residences at Rose Hill Apartments, West Farms Square, Crotona Avenue, as well as Anthony and Tiebout Avenues.

On a brisk October morning, staff and board started their Northwest Bronx visit at Rose Hill Apartments, a 119 unit low-income senior citizen housing project, originally developed by Fordham University in 1985. In 2008-2009, UNHP managed $5.5 million in rehabilitation financing to improve public areas, roofing, boilers and bathrooms as well as the lobby and community room. Nayda Alejandro, UNHP board member and Rose Hill director, noted that “the community resident lounge is now larger and equipped with a TV and Wii Games. It’s well used by residents.”

The success of these Bronx projects reflects not only a commitment to large scale improvements, such as the installation of efficient boilers or the shift to a natural gas fired Co-Generation (CoGen) system, it also exhibits the strength of non-profit development in building rehabilitation. The renovations present an attention to detail often missing in other structures around the neighborhood; exemplified by the installation of bird wires, bright public lighting, colorful tiles & bright paint colors, environmental features, landscaping and ornamental fencing.

Norsy Jimenez and after-school program staff in the community room at West Farms Square.

The tour not only highlighted the needed and valuable infrastructure changes made to the buildings. It served to show the dynamic social world and services provided within each residence. At West Farms Square, after-school programs run by Norsy Jimenez of Fordham Bedford Community Services ensure that West Farms children are given the opportunity to excel at school in a supportive environment. Many of the West Farms residents have “aged in place” – this reflects a place where residents feel comfortable raising their families and remaining through their retirement years.

John, the Super, and Managers Neldo and Kevin at 911 East 165th Street building.

The cleanliness and well maintained appearance of the buildings is a credit to the work of building managers, supers, porters, maintenance and UNHP staff. Subsidies play an important role in making apartments affordable for people in our buildings, especially in West Farms Square where the majority of tenants receive Section 8. The current and impending threats to Section 8 serve as a reminder of the work that still needs to be achieved.

2013 marks the 30th anniversary of UNHP and we are proud of our work to improve and preserve the buildings on the tour – we look forward to meeting the many challenges ahead for affordable housing in our community.