It was a momentous day for NYCHA and the future of New York City’s public housing as partners cut the ribbon to celebrate $560 million in completed upgrades to Ocean Bay Apartments in Far Rockaway, Queens. This was NYCHA’s first, and the country’s largest, single-site conversion under HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), switching 1,395 apartments in 24 buildings to Section 8 funding, ensuring that the apartments remain permanently affordable. (Watch a video about Ocean Bay Apartments, NYCHA 2.0, and RAD here.)
For the nearly 4,000 residents of Ocean Bay Apartments, formerly Ocean Bay – Bayside, it was a day to show how proud they are of where they live and to give thanks to the partnership that transformed their development.
Yoselin Perez is a single mother of four children who has lived at the development for 10 years. Ms. Perez is also the head porter for Ocean Bay Apartments, helping to maintain the building for her fellow residents. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 10, Ms. Perez told the audience how she and her children feel safer and that the renovations make her feel like she’s living in a fancy co-op building.
“Most of my friends come here and they see my building that I’m proud of, my apartment that I’m proud of, and my team that I work with, and they say, ‘Wow, I would like that where I live,’” Ms. Perez said. “So, what I ask all of you is why not transfer this, give this to other people, so they can feel what I feel today? I feel safer, and I’m proud to be part of this.”
While staying in their apartments, residents received major apartment and common area upgrades, including renovations of their kitchens and bathrooms, new elevators, new windows in public areas, new lobbies, and renovated hallways. Their buildings also received façade improvements, security cameras, improved interior and exterior lighting, landscaping, and more.
In addition, the development’s buildings are better prepared to face climate change and the threat of future storms: Major resiliency upgrades included new mechanical rooms above the flood level for new emergency generators, solar panels, a flood wall for the entire site, and rooftop boilers.
“Ocean Bay – Bayside demonstrates what NYCHA, the community, and committed partners can achieve together to both address residents' immediate needs and preserve public housing for future generations,” said NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia. “We thank HUD, NYS Homes and Community Renewal, MDG Design + Construction, Wavecrest Management, elected officials and local leaders, and, most importantly, the residents for their part in revitalizing their community.”
RAD is one of the tools NYCHA is using to renovate and repair its developments. NYCHA’s entire portfolio – 2,351 buildings at 316 developments – has $32 billion in capital needs, and the majority of its buildings are more than 50 years old and in need of repair. As part of NYCHA 2.0, a comprehensive plan to preserve public housing, 140,000 residents living in 62,000 apartments will receive major upgrades, repairs, and improved quality of life as their developments undergo RAD conversions over the next 10 years.
Lolita Miller has lived at Ocean Bay for 48 years and is a member of the RAD Council. She recalled the initial resident engagement process and explaining RAD to residents: “I said we’re going to flood them out with information under their doors, so they will understand that we’re not putting them out, we’re giving them something that they can be proud of.”
“And now look at this place, ain’t it wonderful?” Ms. Miller said.
NYCHA completed three additional RAD conversions in 2018 at Twin Parks West, Betances, and Highbridge-Franklin in the Bronx. Conversions set to begin this year include Hope Gardens and four other developments in Bushwick, Brooklyn: a total of 1,315 apartments that will receive $215 million in major upgrades, improving the quality of life for 2,700 residents. In early 2020, more than 4,300 apartments in 25 developments in Brooklyn and Manhattan will be upgraded, benefiting 9,600 residents.