Developer Receives $120 Million Loan for Betances Houses Repairs & New Construction

RDC Development, along with Wavecrest management snagged a $120 million loan to make upgrades to the 1,088 unit NYCHA Betances Houses development in Mott Haven.

Just last month the de Blasio administration announced that Betances Houses had been transferred into a Section 8 program called RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) where a private developer would make necessary repairs and upgrades to the development and manage them for a 15-20 year period.

The Real Deal reports that permits have also been filed for construction of a 15 story residential building on property owned by NYCHA at Betances Houses which currently is a 1 story commercial building at 472 Willis Avenue.

According to Department of Buildings filings, the development will be a 90,000 square foot building with 101 residential units and 7,500 square feet of commercial space.

No further details on what exactly the development will be but it will most likely follow the trend of “affordable” housing construction on what is deemed “excess” land on NYCHA property.

472 Willis Avenue, which is part of Betances Houses, is currently a single-story commercial building occupied by a furniture store. The deli has been closed for some time now and permits have been filed to erect a new 15 story building at this site with 101 residential units.

While all of this might sound good on paper, many residents and activists fear that this is simply just a step towards full on privatization of public services like NYCHA.

Sadly, the government has given us plenty of reasons to be distrustful based on past experiences of further marginalization of low income communities especially those that are predominantly Black and Brown.

We have experienced first hand what disinvestment and planned shrinkage is like here in the South Bronx and that trauma has set in generations deep so it’s hard to shake that off when that’s what you knew all your life.

Betances Houses is a sprawling development of 39 buildings with a mixture of pre and post war developments.

There’s also the question as to why are they fixing certain developments now? Betances, for example, is located in rapidly gentrifying Mott Haven where 25 story market-rate luxury towers are rising alongside luxury condominiums while just a few blocks away, NYCHA residents at Patterson Houses were without water and forced to go to an open fire hydrant to collect water.

Only time will tell but time is running out and NYCHA residents can’t wait and continue to live in horrendous conditions.

We don’t have the answers to solve this and I don’t think honestly anyone fully has the right answer. NYCHA’s crisis is simply too huge for a one-size fits all situation and perhaps such partnerships like at Betances will be needed while other solutions may work elsewhere.

In some conversations we have had on Twitter, activists have called for things like full tenant control or even turning NYCHA developments into tenant-owned cooperative and condominiums as was done in Sweden as mentioned by Shawn Garcia, East Harlem resident and activist (you can read more here about Sweden’s program but warning, it’s a pdf).

What solutions do you think are needed for NYCHA?

Perhaps now that Democrats control Congress, perhaps we can get more funding?

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.