Recent articles point out that New York City needs billions to maintain disintegrating housing projects. One Harlem project is so decrepit that over 800 units are empty now because they are too damaged to live in. Federal funding has been cut for public housing and the city is actually not allowed to build any more such housing because there is a legal cap to these developments. So what is the solution here? There was a time when cities were desperate to keep residents and thus financing this type of public housing made sense but now land is valuable and urban populations are growing after decades of decline. Leasing the open land around the towers has not been a popular solution but something else needs to happen to maintain the current stock.
Low-income housing reached a crises point over 50 years ago when old, neglected tenement buildings were seen as antiquated forms of housing attracting crime with empty storefronts on each block. It was easier for the city to get new development contracts and sell off unwanted property than to actually fix up the blocks. There apparently was slum clearance sentiment which basically embraced getting rid of old community blocks for massive, insolated towers with open land surrounding them.
It has now been over 50 years since these Towers in the Parks have been built and the city once more is in same situation that was faced with the old tenements decades before. Everyone has since learned that building isolated towers does not improve an impoverished neighborhood, city blocks need to have all economic levels and the older street system made sense in the development of a community. The more sensible thing to do is to start relocating housing residents in new developments as they are being built and start selling the old towers to developers. The old towers would then be replaced by new mixed-income buildings that would restore the city blocks, have storefronts that would subsidize upkeep and land would be used more efficiently with parking or playgrounds designed within indoor spaces. This would require a lot of organization by all parties within the city but at the end of the day this would be a more sustainable plan than what currently is in place.