Washington Heights Property Receives $21.5 Million for Rehabilitation

A Washington Heights affordable housing building will receive $21.5 million in financing to fund extensive rehabilitation on the property.

By Keith Loria, Contributing Writer

Washington Heights, N.Y.—In a collaborative effort by HPD, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Community League of the Heights, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., Alembic Community Development, Capital One and others, a Washington Heights affordable housing building will receive $21.5 million in financing to fund extensive rehabilitation on the property.

Located at 552 Academy St., the building was originally 76 units, but will drop to 72 when the rehab work is completed.

Last year, all the residents were vacated by the City because of immediately hazardous conditions brought on by years of neglect by the previous owner, including structural issues that threatened to destabilize the building.

“The building had been chosen by the city to be evacuated because it was in such despair. The tenants have been living under deplorable conditions for quite some time due to landlord neglect, and it was unsafe for them to be living in the building,” Yvonne Stennett, Community League of the Heights’s executive director, tells MHN.  “With the resources of our elected officials and working with the city, we were able to fast track the galvanization of fixing this building.”

The rehabilitation will enable the families to return to newly renovated apartments at the existing affordable rents, and will provide previously unavailable amenities such as a new community room.

“It’s a gut rehabilitation and there will be new kitchens, new bathrooms, new windows, upgrades to mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, new roofs, boilers and repairs to common areas,”Arlo Chase, principal at Alembic Community Development, tells MHN. “There will also be an addition of an elevator, which is important to returning tenants, many who are elderly and have been living in the building for a very long time.”

There will also be a substantial “greening” of the building, to meet the criteria set forth by Enterprise Green Community.

“It’s now required for all New York City-funded projects through HPD to show a 20 percent energy savings above and beyond the building code requirements,” Shola Olatoye, Enterprise Community Partners’ Deputy Director and Director of Relationship Management, tells MHN. “Things like air quality and important features around ventilation are really being addressed. We believe the ability to live and breathe in clean and efficient housing is a real priority for us and this project will meet that standard.”

When completed, the original tenants will return and will be a part of the changing Washington Heights community around them.

“The neighborhood was once looked at in a very negative perception, but that has turned around drastically,” Stennett says. “We are seeing a real change in the neighborhood. Lots of new businesses are going up the rehabilitation of 552 Academy is adding significantly to the positive perception of the neighborhood.”

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