Residents responded to the mayor’s housing strategy with a strategy of their own. Will it work?

How East Harlem Wrote Its Own Development Plan

Residents responded to the mayor’s housing strategy with a strategy of their own. Will it work?

STORY BY Oscar Perry Abello

PUBLISHED ON June 20, 2016

With their weathered red brick exteriors, the 14 buildings of the Lincoln Houses look like almost every other New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) public housing community. Most of the buildings are 14-stories tall, towering over the trees, playgrounds, pathways and parking lots planted below them, in the prevailing towers-in-the-park style of when they were built in 1948.

Here in East Harlem, however, Lincoln Houses and the rest of the neighborhood’s many public housing communities carry some unique reminders of the immense wealth in other parts of New York City. They have street names in common with the city’s billionaires who live on the Upper East Side: Fifth, Madison, Park, Lexington, Third, Second and First Avenues. Metro North’s 289,000 dailycommuters can see Lincoln Houses when they cross over the Harlem River into Manhattan, coming in from the city’s affluent suburbs in upstate New York and Connecticut to Grand Central Terminal. A sign along the elevated Metro North tracks facing Lincoln Houses says, “Welcome Aboard,” but there is no station here.

Esther DeVore has lived in East Harlem for 34 years. She’s raised six kids in the neighborhood. On September 14, 2006, DeVore joined Community Voices Heard(CVH), an East Harlem-based advocacy group founded in 1994 by low-income residents, mostly women of color. She joined CVH because she believes housing is a human right, and she has been an active volunteer in their affordable housing advocacy work ever since, organizing to oppose policies that might cause displacement of existing residents.

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