The Bridgeport Housing Authority is moving forward with a demolition plan for Marina Village apartments in the South End as part of a “comprehensive plan to revitalize significant areas of the South End and East Side neighborhoods.” See zoning proposal here. Andrew Martinez, a South End resident who hosts a website devoted to examining social issues in the city, raises questions about the impact of the proposal on residents. His commentary follows:
The Bridgeport Housing Authority plans to use U.S. federal dollars to build “waterfront” subsidized housing in Bridgeport’s South End neighborhood between Main Street and Broad Street. And what I mean by “waterfront” is housing that is in a flood zone, not the scenic views of Long Island Sound. This action is concerning for a few reasons.
Ethical concerns: Let’s begin with the ethical concerns. Most people in their right mind raising children would not choose to live in an active flood zone that has been devastated consecutively for two years with over 5 feet of water. But somehow, these living conditions are suitable for poor families? During hurricane Irene this area was flooded and could not be accessed for weeks. What will a working family do if they cannot access their home? How will their children attend school? This can be devastating to a fragile family and this can be avoided with better foresight and planning.
Fiscal Concerns: For those who are not moved by these ethical issues, the plan also presents a host of fiscal concerns. How is it that an area that has been ravaged by two consecutive years of more than 5 feet of flooding (Hurricanes Sandy and Irene), and remains in an active flood zone, now becomes the location to spend taxpayer dollars to build subsidized housing? Apparently the bottom level of this structure will be parking spaces. This is important and required given federal regulations when building subsidized housing in a flood zone. However, this does not address the displacement of families over a sustained period of time. When you have over 80 displaced families who cannot access their home (some estimate that this translates to somewhere between 200-300 people) and who would need to be housed elsewhere for a duration of weeks (maybe up to a month)–where will families be housed? Who will pay for this bill? There will be inspection costs, mold issues, structural damage, and debris that will need to be moved–who will pay for this cost? And what about litigation costs if a disgruntled tenant is upset about not being properly relocated, housed etc? And what about the flood insurance costs? Is there a displacement plan–should a storm occur? What are the projected costs? Is is cheaper to build a scaled-down version of this site and build another portion of the site in an area that is not in a flood zone? And by the way, this is not only a Bridgeport issue. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a federal department. This means that as long as you are an American taxpayer–this affects you. But of course, the local citizen will bear the brunt. Should a flood occur, this will impact local resources such as the city’s police and fire department resources. Because when you have 200 people that need to be evacuated from a flood zone (many of whom do not own a vehicle but the BHA says it will encourage bicycle use) and then want to return to their home to access belongings (understandably so), this will impact local resources such as police and firefighters. Has this been discussed with the City of Bridgeport? Has a determination been made as to what this would signify given the city’s current economic standing?
There are other issues as well that I will not address here, but will defer to others in the community to address. For example, the historic preservation of the South End and how the design is not in line with the historical nature of the South End’s housing. Others have voiced concerns regarding traffic and the fact that this may potentially leave the Ferry without parking if the L.I. Ferry does not relocate on time. During a recent public meeting with the BHA a question was raised by a local resident about the capacity of the sewage system given that the sewage backs up. In other words can the sewage system handle 80 new units? BHA responded that this is a city issue.
You see, residents have local understanding of the nuances and contours of neighborhoods. When citizen input is not genuinely elicited, ill-conceived plans such as these are developed–but the problems arise later. Sewage problems worsen, the American taxpayer bears the brunt, vulnerable families become homeless during the next storm, and future generations suffer as a result of these poor decisions. This plan goes before the zoning board in September and is being pushed through quickly. My fear is that such haste will make waste.