Then, in August 2012, she got a call: There was a three-bedroom apartment available at Via Verde, a low- and moderate-income housing complex in the South Bronx. The development, which has 150 rental units and 70 co-ops, had opened just a few months earlier and was receiving a lot of attention for its thoughtful, sustainable design: The complex has courtyards, a large green roof planted with vegetable gardens and fruit trees, a sunny gym on a high floor, and apartments with cross-ventilation and ceiling fans to keep them cool in the summer.
Ms. Daniels was familiar with the building for another reason. Living in her brother’s place on nearby St. Ann’s Avenue, she and her granddaughter, Jada, would often walk past the Brook Avenue construction site on their way to pick up a Zipcar.
“We watched it when they were in the process of building it up, and my granddaughter would say, ‘I wish we could live there,’” Ms. Daniels said.
The three of them moved in soon after, impressed with the building, the apartment and, perhaps most of all, the appliances — more than just a refrigerator and stove.
“It came fully loaded,” Ms. Daniels said. “When they showed us it had a washer and dryer, I was like, ‘This is heaven.’”
The rent, which is now $1,194 a month, is close to what she paid in the past, but the apartment and the building are far nicer than anywhere else she has lived.
The last place she rented before moving into the shelter was on the Grand Concourse, in the Mount Hope neighborhood. “It was all right,” she said, but “not like this. To have teenage kids in that neighborhood wasn’t great. The traffic that flowed in and out of our building wasn’t great. There was a lot of drug activity. It was unsafe for them, but teenage kids want to be outside.”
And “if they hung out outside the building,” she added, “the police would come and try to break them up, talk about loitering.”
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While some of her new building’s benefits were immediately obvious — the appliances, the new windows, the generous size of the bedrooms — others she noticed over time.
Now she no longer had to worry about someone sneaking into the building behind her: There is an attendant at the front door who calls to announce visitors, and there are cameras in the halls.
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In almost every other building she had lived in, the halls and stairs were hangout spots for tenants and their guests, and were often strewn with garbage. Here, they were clean.
“I think people, when they come here, they see how nice it is, and they tell their guests not to disrespect the building,” she said.
A number of features have struck her as unexpectedly thoughtful. On Halloween, people giving out candy sign up with the management, which distributes a list so children can go door-to-door in the complex, rather than going around to nearby stores, as they would otherwise. There are outdoor movie nights in the summer and events for children like face-painting and slime-making. And there are benches in the courtyard where she can sit and get some fresh air if she doesn’t have time to go to a park.
Ms. Daniels’s younger daughter later moved in with her, bringing a son who is now 4. They share one of the bedrooms; her older daughter and granddaughter share another; and Ms. Daniels has the third. Last month, her son moved in as well, and has been sleeping on the sofa. But the apartment is large enough, and their schedules different enough, that it hasn’t been an issue. “Everyone is comfortable, happy, working,” she said.
They trade off cooking and grocery shopping, as well as laundry days, and keep a shared savings account for paying the electric and cable bills. Ms. Daniels admitted that she is looking forward to having a little more space when her children move on. Even so, it has been nice to be under the same roof again for a little while.
“We all get along.” she said. “Well, except for the grandkids. They kind of get into it every now and then.”