Borinquen Court on 138th St.
Borinquen Court on 138th St.

Amenities are few and far between, say local seniors

While seniors and other tenants at Borinquen Court in Mott Haven just got a major upgrade to their living conditions, others will be left on the outside looking in.

A year after a complete makeover began on the 145-apartment development, the building looks vibrant in a sea of dingy developments. But while enticing services like “green” plumbing and flat-screen bulletin boards have made many seniors eager to get on the waiting list, few will get to experience these luxuries.

One tenant who is used to the deplorable conditions common in public housing throughout the neighborhood said she is looking forward to completion of the renovations.

“I’m happy to finally have heat and working elevators,” said longtime Borinquen Court tenant Prendella Hilton.

Her neighbor, Naomi Robinson, has lived in the development for 15 years. She, too, recalled how bad living conditions are in area housing, but said things are looking up now.

“I have no complaints,” said Robinson. “It could be worse, way worse.”

Both remember the days before energy-efficient heating systems and new elevators were installed: weekly elevator issues stranded tenants on higher floors and tenants were forced to go days at a time without heat.

In June 2012, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the property would undergo renovations as part of his New Housing Marketplace Plan, with completion scheduled for the fall of 2013. Although the repairs have taken a year longer than anticipated, the $11.08 million in additional funding was well spent, say tenants.

But not all seniors in Mott Haven have so much to look forward to in their homes. At nearby Betances Houses, which is run by the city’s public housing authority, tenant Rosalee Green says the elevators in her building rarely work.

Additionally, the security cameras are broken, she said, even though Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. promised new cameras in his 2012 budget. Green and her neighbors fear that more break-ins are bound to occur without them, she said. In contrast, Borinquen has working cameras and 24-hour security.

Another sticking point for Green is that while seniors at Borinquen Court can eat meals arranged by a professional dietician in a modern dining room while surrounded by tropical plants, or while watching the sunset along the Harlem River from the rooftop solarium, Betances no longer offers a kitchen program.

“They used to have a lunch program, but they stopped that a few years back. Even closed the lunchroom,” Green recalled wistfully.

But although the city’s budgetary constraints force the Betances tenants to make the most of cramped views from gated windows and convene in a crowded quarters, property manager Oswaldo Rosado says the humble surroundings are not due to lack of effort. His company’s goal, he said, is to “treat everyone with respect and dignity” by creating and maintaining strong ties with tenants—a policy he says other residences lack.

“You’ve gotta win their hearts and minds. It’s about the tenants, not about me,” he said.

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