This month’s issue of Natural Home magazine includes a list of the top ten eco-friendly neighborhoods in the U.S. At number ten, it includes Markham Gardens, an affordable housing development in the West Brighton section of Staten Island’s north shore.
In 2004, the New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) announced plans to demolish the development, which featured low-rise, duplex homes with front and backyards. Tenants turned to the Pratt Institute for Community Development for help in saving their homes. Pratt determined that the housing complex (which was originally built in 1943 for World War II shipyard laborers) was structurally sound and historically significant, but “significant rehabilitation” was necessary.
NYCHA subsequently agreed to build 350 to 400 new units and give all tenants the right to return with rents no more than 30 percent of their income. However, NYCHA does not expect that many of the residents will, in fact, come back, and the developers (The Aker Companies, The Domain Companies, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Staten Island) can opt-out of affordable housing after 30 years.
Designed by DHK Architects, the $60 million redevelopment broke ground in mid-2006 and should wrap up early this year with 240 rental units and 25 two-family homes; an additional 80 units of senior housing could be added down the line. 90 of the rental units are open to families with incomes as high as $85,000.
Perhaps Natural Home was drawn to the green aspects of the new development, but any project that razes structurally sound, historically significant housing for low-income people- particularly in a city where housing costs are astronomical- is about the least eco-friendly neighborhood that we can imagine.
America’s Best Eco-Neighborhoods (Casa Verde)