The residents of a Bronx building returned to a derelict lot. They were disgusted.

Woodall says that when, through her work, she learned that CCNY had “been denied funding” to subsidize rental housing for low-income residents, she became “increasingly pessimistic” about the future of affordable housing in her neighborhood. “The reality is that these buildings have been extremely damaged and in disrepair for a decade,” Woodall says. “I can say that I’ve been working in the area for over 15 years and never seen anything like it.”

For instance, the older building at 630 West 237th Street was filled with mice, Woodall told me, and residents complained that the plants were covered in fecal matter. Passerby’s complained that when they took out the trash, the following day they returned to find it larger than when they left it. Woodall added that it was littered with cigarette butts and filled with broken glass, garbage, and waste from cooking meals and eating there.

The reclamation of the property would be more difficult if it were subsidized, and it’s clear Woodall, despite working hard to bolster her own career, wouldn’t be eligible for that kind of help. But she told me: “I feel like I’m out there on my own trying to make ends meet, not just as a resident but as a human being.”

It’s impossible to know how many other buildings like this are operating in the Bronx. The city approved the first high-density Bronx rental project in 2014, but it’s still only in the planning stage. This year, Coronavirus Pandemic rippled through the state’s housing agencies, with agency directors saying their heads felt dizzy from the stress. The Village Voice reports that many housing sites around the country are now looking at ways to secure government grants to redevelop current sites that include mold and in some cases, garbage strewn over the lot like weeds.

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The infected residents of Port Astoria were frustrated and angry, she said, because they had not been informed about their new home before the scheduled arrival date of the cars or boats. The building was selected for a residency opportunity in order to lower vacancies in the Bronx and ancillary cities, says Luisa N. Zayas, an associate dean at the School of Public Health at New York University. Other agencies offered the same neighborhood, but the vetting was done through Port Astoria.

Still, it wasn’t all bad.

When the cars and boats arrived in Port Astoria, they had to be broken down, with no electricity or running water. “Usually when you’re just getting your cars out, you’re trying to get them down into the water and get them going,” Woodall says. “Some people got what they want and went home, but people who were at work stayed. They can’t find anywhere else to live, so they can’t get out. Some people ended up at shelters, but most people just ended up with couch surfing, so it was mostly mobile.”

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