Jorge De Leon and one of his daughters, Silvianis, 3, at his home at the Bronstein Apartments Tuesday, April 17, 2012. He's lived off and on at the complex since his childhood and is looking for answers from the housing authority as to what's going to happen to residents if the apartments are demolished.
Bronstein residents say they are still in the dark about demolition, relocation plans
NASHUA – For Jorge De Leon’s family, the future is uncertain.
The Bronstein Apartments, where De Leon lives with his wife and three daughters and with extended family members in nearby units, may soon be gone.
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and the Nashua Housing Authority have said they are moving forward with a proposal to demolish the public housing complex where the De Leons live, which has housed some of the city’s most impoverished residents since 1974.
Where that leaves the De Leons and about 160 other Bronstein residents, however, many still don’t know. De Leon said residents have yet to hear from city or Housing Authority officials to discuss what lies ahead for their homes.
The demolition plans for the apartment complex were first publicized seven weeks ago through Lozeau’s editorial board session with The Telegraph, though residents said they heard rumors of the prospect for years.
“They haven’t done anything to come around and say, ‘Look this is what’s going on, this is what’s happening,’” De Leon said. “They just keep it to themselves. The only way we’re hearing about these things are the people who are trying to help this community prevent what’s going to happen.”
On Monday evening, the Nashua chapter of the Granite State Organizing Project, a nonprofit that helps local residents speak up about decisions that shape their communities, met with approximately 25 adults and their children living at the Bronstein Apartments to discuss their concerns.
The group also sent impassioned letters to Lozeau and the Housing Authority two weeks ago seeking answers for residents, but have heard no response, according to the Rev. Tom Woodward, a member of the organization.
“While we respect the fact that your vision about how the Parkway should end is your ‘perfect dream,’ we are deeply troubled about its consequences,” GSOP wrote to Lozeau. “If your vision becomes reality, the 160 residents of Bronstein Apartments will lose their homes.”
Lozeau said Tuesday that she had received GSOP’s letter and was planning on meeting with the group to go over their concerns.
It was unfortunate that GSOP chose to meet with residents before the Housing Authority did, Lozeau said, and before she sat down with the organization.
“I have been clear since the beginning: Nobody is going to lose their home,” Lozeau said. “We have an obligation to the people that live there to make sure that we relocate them appropriately.”
In February, Lozeau said the city has been meeting with apartment stakeholders, the Nashua Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about the demolition plans for the apartments.
HUD reviews and approves plans to demolish public housing and requires cities to consult with and provide for residents if the plans are approved.
On Tuesday, Lozeau said that she was aware that the Housing Authority had met with some Bronstein residents, but that she had not met with the Housing Authority since February to discuss the Bronstein plans any further.
Nashua Housing Authority Executive Director Lynn Censabella was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
“I said it wasn’t imminent,” Lozeau said. “The work hasn’t been done yet. All I was trying to say is, I think that there’s an opportunity here that is good for the residents that live there and good for the community at large if we took down Bronstein and relocated those citizens. I believed that. I still believe it, and it’s not something I’m taking casually. There are many discussions before this can happen.”
Ward 4 Alderman Art Craffey, who represents the Bronstein neighborhood, said “it’s been a few months” since he has heard anything about the plans for the complex.
“I don’t want anybody put out,” Craffey said. “I’m concerned about what’s going to happen. I really would like to know what the city’s going to do.”
Housing Authority Commissioner Tom Monahan said in February that the department had been looking for more than 10 years for ways to relocate residents who live in the Bronstein units. He said providing each family with a Section 8 voucher would be the ideal solution.
Lozeau said the Housing Authority would lead any meeting with residents about relocation plans.
“If the Housing Authority and the city decide it makes sense to meet together, we will do that,” Lozeau said.
She said the meetings likely would be held on a private, individual basis to allow the Housing Authority to discuss the personal needs of each family, including financial circumstances and public transportation.
“I don’t know what timeline they’ve determined,” Lozeau said. “There’s certainly ample time to make sure everything that should happen will happen.”
Lozeau said the first steps in the process, including the city’s completion of a demolition disposition plan that is required by HUD, might not be complete until next year.
In that case, demolition would be more than a year away. The process is still in its preliminary stages, Lozeau said.
“It’s out there because I spoke when I shouldn’t have,” Lozeau said, referring to her comments to The Telegraph. “That’s why I’m in this boat. It’s a valuable lesson for me. I’ve created a lot of heartburn for people over something that may or may not even happen. … Let’s say that we pursue this with HUD. We think that we can come up with a plan that makes some sense, and HUD says, ‘No, we’re not going to allow it.’ There’s no point in having met with people, disrupted their lives, caused all kinds of angst, and not have it happen.”
For De Leon, any information is better than no information.
Being forced to move would put a strain on his kids, and his job, De Leon said. He is the sole breadwinner in his family, working a full-time job in Hudson to help pay rent on their three-bedroom apartment, and De Leon carpools to work each day.
But De Leon has no clue what challenges his family might face, he said. The information he gets on the Bronstein Apartments comes from the newspaper, the Internet, rumors from his neighbors, or visits from the GSOP, he said.
“This is your property,” De Leon said of city and Housing Authority officials. “You guys should come around or at least do a meeting and say, ‘We’re doing this’ … and ask us for opinions on what you should do.
“They don’t do that. They don’t care about us. All they care about is, we’re going to tear (the apartments) down, build something, sell the property or get what we’ve been wanting.”
Whatever the plans for Bronstein residents, De Leon said he wants to stay in Nashua.
“You’ve got to go somewhere else and start all over again,” he said. “I don’t want that for my kids. … It’s not good and it’s not easy to get through it.”
Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).