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Web www.startsandfits.com
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Signs of Gentrification?
Cyclists who will participate in the annual Five Borough Bike Tour tomorrow will ride past the Ennis Francis Houses at 2070 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (Seventh Avenue), between 123rd and 124th Streets in Harlem. This is a 231-unit, 11-story federally subsidized apartment building for the elderly that opened in 1985. The riders may notice two large signs that tenants have affixed to the building. Starts & Fits has previously reported on tenants making complaints public and this seems to be another example. My first reaction was that the tenants were be reacting to some kind of incident or series of incidents. Perhaps real estate agents in this gentrifying neighborhood were snooping around, offering bargain basement deals to tenants of the building in hopes of flipping the units to wealthier new tenants. But it seems that this isn't a dispute about individual apartments, but rather the whole building.

City Limits reported last November that a judge had "appointed an independent administrator" to manage the building after years of neglect. In December 2003, City Limits had noted that the building, though relatively new, was in bad shape. "Apartment walls are stained with mold, ceilings are leaking, water bugs and mice lurk beneath radiators," the article said. It continues on to quote a tenant leader, Kim Smith, who said, "We lived through the slum era. We ought to be able to live through the renaissance."
The real issue is that when landlords let a federally financed building deterioriate, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development takes it over and gives Section 8 rent vouchers to the tenants. Meanwhile, HUD auctions the building off or gives it to a more qualified landlord. So the signs seem to be posted because the tenants at Ennis Francis want the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a highly esteemed community-based development organization, to manage their building instead of a speculative landlord who could try to profit by keeping maintenance at a minimum, as seems to be what happened before. In 2003, City Limits evaluated HUD's policies for disposing of poorly maintained property, and concluded, "tenants like those at Ennis Francis are going to have to fight for the future of their homes." That seems to be exactly what is happening.

- Posted at 6:01 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |  

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