1985: Keeping the promise alive in New York City

I’m an original shareholder in the Mascot Flats building. We joined in 1985; work had already begun and the Carters were already involved, so I don’t have any memory of it not being associated with them. I think so highly of them, and I’m so proud that Rosalynn Carter did the metal channel that frames my kitchen and living room.

It was a burned-out shell of a building that had been built in 1908 or something like that. They had to build a temporary access stairway to even be able to get in and start clearing it out. David Geiger was the architect, and he did an amazing job of creating nice spaces within this shell he was given. He was just the nicest guy, and he would come around and give little tips about how to put in a wood floor and things like that. It was just really thoughtful and lovely, what he did. He was an unsung hero, I think.

The Lower East Side was my neighborhood already — and I think that was true of almost all of the homesteaders. To have new, quality apartments at an affordable housing cost in our neighborhood and to be able to stay there was really great. Even at the time, we were all getting priced out of our neighborhood — and certainly since then, we really have been.

A lot of the original shareholders I met and became close with as we were working on the building have parents and cousins living around the neighborhood, and I’ve gotten to know them, too. So it’s really been kind of a neighborhood preservation project, I would say.

There are a lot of interesting people here making great contributions. Somebody on our board started an anti-discrimination/social justice training program for young people that he’s been running for at least 20 years, and someone who’s a law firm secretary teaches dance to children on the weekends. I’m a secretary in the research department of a hospital in the neighborhood. We’ve got a subway motor man; a school security officer; a musician; somebody who works in a bank.

We’re working very hard at keeping the affordable housing promise going. It’s like an ongoing project, and people in our building are working in the same spirit of the Habitat volunteers who helped us. We’re continuing that work on our own behalf, but also to keep it available for people like us in the future.

— Ann Rupel, as told to Megan Frank