News release from Bridgeport Housing Authority:
The closeout agreements for the Father Panik Village and Pequonnock Apartments Replacement Housing Programs were signed today (August 28, 2012) in the Bridgeport Mayor’s Conference room. After two and a half decades in the making the Bridgeport Housing Authority has provided the 1,319 housing units that were lost after the demolition of the two housing complexes. Officials from the Authority, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Legal Services, Mayor Bill Finch and the original plaintiffs were all on hand to participate in and witness the official signing. Bridgeport Housing Authority Executive Director Nicholas Calace said, “This has been a long and arduous task to complete the units and a lot of people have spent much of their careers on this effort so for all of us the close out agreement is very satisfying. I just wish Kathleen Vila, the former tenant, plaintiff and housing authority chairperson who died recently could be here to see this.”
Father Panik Village relocations started in the mid ’80s, and the complex’s last building went down in 1993. In 2002, the plaintiffs (the former residents of Father Panik Village, and the members of the waiting list for Father Panik Village) entered into an agreement with the defendants (HUD and the Housing Authority) that provided for the replacement of 1,063 apartment units. That Agreement was amended in 2007, and it was that amended Agreement that served as the road map for the Project’s completion and led up to this event. The 1,063 units have been replaced through a combination of 791 “hard” replacement units constructed throughout Bridgeport and up to 272 “soft” units which are project-based Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The last of the Father Panik Village replacement units construction finally started on Albion Street, part of a mixed health and housing facility. Barbara Harden, a former Village tenant and FPV Tenant Association President said at first we didn’t want to leave the village … but I got adjusted to the reality, I got section 8 Housing Vouchers. I’m happy about this because it was a long time coming.”
The Pequonnock Apartments were built as State public housing for families. It was transferred to the Bridgeport Housing Authority in 1995 when BHA absorbed the Connecticut Housing Authority. At the time, the property contained 256 units in two, 128-unit buildings. In November, 2000, HUD, the City and the authority entered into an Agreement with former residents’ and waiting list members’ attorneys to replace 100 of the 256 units with “hard” units and 156 “soft” or project-based Section 8 vouchers. In conjunction with the City of Bridgeport’s efforts to redevelop the area, the authority sought and was given permission to demolish the buildings in January, 2002. In 2003, the City selected a local CDC, Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, to serve as its agent in providing the “hard” units. Subsequently, the Agreement was modified to reduce the “hard” unit requirement to 60 and to use a portion of the City’s bond funds to establish the long-term source of money for Stable Families, an industry award winning program to increase the likelihood of successful tenancy by public housing and Section 8 tenants. Last Wednesday the final Pequonnock housing units went up on Lewis Street.
Father Panik Village History: FPV was Connecticut’s first public housing project and was known originally as Yellow Mill Village. It was renamed in honor of Bridgeport Housing Authority’s first chairman, Father Stephen Panik who was instrumental in ensuring that there was decent, safe and sanitary housing for the City’s citizens with incomes that did not allow them to compete in the market.
The Village opened in 1940, with 778 apartments in 47 brick buildings. When the project was completed there were over 1,200 units. Spread out on 40 acres, it contained apartment buildings, a shopping center with a grocery and dime store, two large playgrounds with areas sectioned off for preschool children, 29 sandboxes, 700 park benches and landscaped courtyards paved with grass.
Originally the population was 5,400 people, which would have made it the 51st largest town in the state at the time. The 1940 rent prices were $17-26 a month, which was approximately 20% of the average family income for five persons (two parents and three children). Progressive for 1940, the development included bathrooms inside the apartments, hot and cold running water, gas stoves, a park and community center with a library, including 600 children’s books.