A new look for affordable housing

The Wall Street Journal looks at PS 109, the first development in New York City for Artspace and a project the Ford Foundation has supported since its early planning stages. When construction is complete, the former public school building will offer affordable housing for artists and their families, and creative spaces for community and arts groups. “We’re big fans of the project,” said George Sarkissian, district manager of Community Board 11, which serves East Harlem. “It provides affordable housing to the most vulnerable to displacement, and it provides a place for artists and for our culture to be preserved.”

Published in The Wall Street Journal | April 17, 2014
Affordable housing takes on a different look
By Lana Bartolot


With the scaffolding slowly coming down from a retrofitted P.S. 109, East Harlem residents are getting their first view at an affordable-housing project that stands in contrast to other such digs in the neighborhood.

Just a stone’s throw from the city’s postwar public housing complexes on Third Avenue and East 99th Street, the collegiate Gothic-style building, designed by Charles B.J. Snyder in 1898, is being revealed as a scaled-down château, with refurbished gargoyles and buff-colored brick gleaming for the first time in decades. The school closed in the mid-1990s after falling into disrepair.

But this won’t be fancy housing for up-and-comers. The $52.2 million project—co-developed by the Minneapolis-based Artspace, which acquired the building in 2012 for $1, and Operation Fightback, a community developer in El Barrio—will offer 90 units of affordable housing to qualified artists through a program administered by the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation & Development. The project received $24 million in federal low-income housing tax credits.

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The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.