“As a voice and advocate for my community, including my neighbors, friends and residents, it is important for me to ensure that their concerns and questions are resolved.”

Audubon Houses

Dantes Partners

NYCHA’s Audubon Houses in Manhattan.

As the affordable housing crisis continues to plague hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, I feel fortunate to live in the only place that I call home—the Audubon Houses in Washington Heights —one of the developments in the country’s largest public housing system, NYCHA. As a family, we moved to Audubon Houses from the Bronx when I was just 9 years old with my parents, my five sisters and four brothers, and didn’t know what to expect.

For nearly 60 years, I have seen significant changes to our neighborhood and our community. As a single mother who has raised three children, I can tell you how important safety and a healthy environment are when you raise a family all on your own. I remember we had a beautiful green space filled with colorful gardens outside of our building, but we all had to pitch in and take care of the space on our own. It was much easier for me and the other residents to manage repairs needed inside of our apartments instead of making a maintenance request through the Housing Authority. We all got used to this endless routine. 

Despite this, over the years, our families and neighbors continued to build tight-knit relationships that allowed us the opportunity to celebrate our children’s birthdays together along with the sharing of many meals during the holidays.

Unfortunately, as you can imagine, repairs and maintenance needs continued to pile up over the years. In fact, when it does rain, one of my neighbors water leaking into her apartment constantly. The Housing Authority would repair the issue for the immediate band-aid solution but would have to return every single time to patch up the walls.

These issues and other needs, such as proper heating, continued for decades. However, I had to remain positive over the years for my family because I had no other choice. The reality was that I would take on my own upgrades every four months from changing the paint on my walls to getting new ceiling fans for my apartment.

About a year ago, nearly 900 residents who lived at Audubon, Bethune Gardens and Marshall Plaza heard about Dantes Partners and Faria Management, mission-driven, Black-owned development and property management companies, that would soon lead the comprehensive renovations and repairs in our apartments as part of the NYCHA Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) program.

Residents were excited to see what their apartments would look like, but we were also skeptical about the changes. Initially, we were unfamiliar with the team and staff and had no relationship with them. It was evident that, after decades without significant upgrades to our apartment buildings, a critical change was necessary. Dantes Partners took it upon themselves to schedule frequent resident meetings to explain the project and the process for each of the residents—which is a massive and robust undertaking.

In my role, it’s important to me to continue to highlight the importance of centering residents’ voices and nurturing their communities. Dantes Partners encouraged residents to provide their input during resident meetings and understood that it would take time to see their apartments change for the better. Other PACT developers, some of whom have proven to be less than stellar, should follow Dantes Partners lead by taking a similar approach to resident engagement.

Since day one, the team expressed their mission and commitment to making a positive difference in each of our lives. With the new security cameras and exterior ground improvements that this project would provide, we knew that this would bring a much cleaner and safer environment for our seniors, children and families.

Before any repairs or renovations begin, notices are distributed to residents and displayed throughout the buildings. Additionally, throughout the construction process, the team ensures that every resident understands they can have their questions about the ongoing work addressed by the team.

As a voice and advocate for my community, including my neighbors, friends and residents, it is important for me to ensure that their concerns and questions are resolved. In addition to the renovations currently underway, Dantes Partners has successfully completed 2,000 maintenance requests that the team inherited.

As the work continues and progresses this year, we look forward to the continued upgrades that will also include modern elevators, energy-efficient windows, new kitchen appliances and cabinets, new bathrooms and upgraded community rooms for the residents.

Today, I live in the same apartment with my children as I did when we moved here. I am a resident who is proud to call Audubon Houses home.

Ms. Wanda Moret is the Tenant Association president at the Audubon Houses.