Five Architects On The One Building They Wish Had Been Preserved

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.

Name: Yolanda Daniels

Age: 48

Occupation: Ms. Daniels worked as a cord blood technician with New York Blood Center, talking to mothers about donating placentas for stem-cell research, but she was laid off two months ago, when the site closed. She lives with her two grandchildren, Jada Daniels, 10, and Temilade Olanibi, 4, as well as her three children: Ashley Daniels, 24, who works at Kleinfeld Bridal; Amanda Daniels, 23, who works as a nurse’s aide; and Jarrell Daniels, 23, who works at a supermarket.

Rent: $1,194 a month; the electric bill runs about $95 a month, around half of what she paid in previous apartments, which she attributes to living in Via Verde, a green building.

Via Verde: was developed by Phipps Houses and Jonathan Rose Companies, and designed by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects. The complex, which combines low- and moderate-income rental and co-op units, follows green building practices and devotes a significant amount of space to amenities intended to encourage health.

Decorating: Since moving in, Ms. Daniels has painted the walls (green in the living room, orange in the kitchen and maroon in the hall), done some stenciling and hung pictures. “I try to make it nice, but the grandkids mess it up,” she said, adding that her grown children also did a number on her leather sofas by putting out delicate laundry to dry there.

Her oldest daughter: has applied for a one-bedroom in Via Verde. If she gets it, “that would be great,” Ms. Daniels said. “I could go down for dinner.”

What she has learned about apartment hunting: “You can’t do it in the wintertime because everyone is hiding. And then the summertime rolls around, and you can’t even have your windows open: People are blaring music, arguing, drinking, smoking.”

Her current apartment, however, is quiet: “It’s been good,” she said. “The kids love it. In fact, everybody loves it. Friends want to hang out here, lay on the couch, wash their clothes.”

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.

Photo
The master bedroom: Each bedroom in the apartment is generously sized, something Ms. Daniels found lacking in many older Bronx apartment buildings. Credit Robert Wright for The New York Times

“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.”

Photo
Via Verde is an affordable housing complex in the South Bronx that offers a combination of rentals and co-ops for low- and moderate-income residents, with amenities like vegetable gardens and courtyards. Credit Robert Wright for The New York Times

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.”

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Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/realestate/sustainable-affordable-housing-south-bronx.html

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