Apartments and a farm sprout in the Bronx

A tribute to the “new Bronx,” Arbor House, in the Morrisania section, opened officially last week. Tenants selected by lottery will be moving in during the next two weeks. Residents of NYCHA Forest Houses had preference for 25 of the units.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

The saying goes: “It takes a village to raise a child” and in putting together the finance deal–$ 37.7 million to build 124 units of low-income housing–took a village of partners: city, state and private funders.

Last week, neighbors active in the Morrisania section of the Bronx and excited new tenants joined housing development partners and local politicians to celebrate this beautiful new housing in their ‘hood with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Aptly called Arbor House, the neighborhood’s newest addition at 770 East 166th St. and Tinton is a “green” building, nationally recognized for its sustainable design and energy efficient attributes.

It gleamed in the cool morning sun, especially its glass greenhouse sitting atop the building. Covering the entire roof, a sustainable, hydroponic commercial farm–vegetables and herbs to be grown in mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil – was designed, built and will be managed by Sky Vegetables and is in the planting stage.

Fresh produce, grown on the building’s roof, will be for sale locally through a neighborhood co-op and there will be job opportunities for farm maintenance. Basil and kale seedlings and lettuce plants were already in progress.

The apartments have been designated for households earning less than 60 percent of the area median income or $49,800 for a family of four. Tenants for the studio, one-and two-bedroom apartments were selected by lottery and a quarter are from New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings. Arbor House was built on land that was a parking lot, previously belonging to NYCHA.

Home health aide Dorothy Smith, 72, is moving from a fifth floor walk-up that she says is drug infested with people sleeping in the hallway. “I feel so blessed, I can’t wait to get in here,” she divulged. Chosen to speak during the formal presentations, Smith added, “Thank God for getting me down from those five flights of stairs that I walk up every day.”

Located in an area with high rates of obesity and diabetes, Arbor House is like others that developer Les Bluestone has built, addressing these issues by providing exercise incentives.

Clever signs are placed about like: “If your dog is too fat you’re not getting enough exercise.” The stairwells are bright, artfully decorated with music piped in to encourage people to walk up or down. The building’s garden has play equipment for children and exercise apparatuses for adults including an oversized chess board, to play while standing up.

Built by Blue Sea Development, this project is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Market Place plan to finance 165,000 affordable housing units for half a million New Yorkers by the end of his administration.

Among the funders, devoted Bronx advocates Bronx Borough President Reuben Diaz Jr. and City Council member Helen Foster jointly contributed $2 million from their discretionary funds.

At the ceremonies, Bluestone received a certificate rating the building Gold from the National Green Building Standard. Building construction primarily used local and recycled products and 65 percent of the construction waste was recycled and diverted from landfills. Mount Sinai has selected Arbor House for a study on the effect of healthy living on asthma and obesity.

One happy new tenant-to-be Dorothy Smith, 72. “Thank God for getting me down from those five flights of stairs that I walk up every day,” she said of her current drug infested walk-up.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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