Tag Archives: Affordable Housing

Crumble in the Bronx

Threats to New York City’s Affordable Housing ♦

Note: This reported, unpublished story was written as part of a master’s program at the Columbia School of Journalism.

With her peppery grey hair cut efficiently short, but dyed a youthful honey blonde, Martha Castro is a modern matriarch. At sixty-six, this mother of five children and grandmother of ten balances a mix of contradictions. She is a former mental health worker who only recently gave up her post-retirement bartending job; a cruise enthusiast with a fear of water; and, somewhat reluctantly, the president of her building’s tenant association.

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Soundview in the Bronx

Her apartment, a two-bedroom ground floor in the Soundview area of the Bronx, reflects the pride Castro takes in her family. Two-decades’ worth of accumulated objects crowd the living-dining room and a small hallway. Goblets, souvenir shot glasses and tumblers glint from every exposed surface. Framed family photos and certificates that Castro received for community service tile the walls.

A closer look, however, reveals that these walls hold more than accolades and memorabilia. Great patches of discolored paint point to massive seepage and structural problems. This Christmas, Castro hung her decorations strategically over waterlogged patches. For the past several years, she and her fellow tenants at 1585 East 172nd Street have been waging guerilla warfare against mold, vermin and cracks – trying to keep their homes from falling apart.

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Published: April 8, 2010