Mitchell-Lama housing stabilized neighborhoods in transition. TriBeCa, the Upper West Side, and the East Village are what they are today because of Mitchell-Lama. Hard-working people in middle-income professions settled down and formed communities throughout the City. They raised families, invested in local schools and stayed put, in some cases, until their kids were grown. In many cases, beyond.
Roosevelt Island also has Mitchell-Lama to thank for its success. There were no services or programs here when the Island pioneers came. They started the Little League, arranged for the first plots of land for their gardens. They facilitated a book exchange, now a branch of the New York Public Library. They organized the first plays in what became the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance and the first nursery school, which became Roosevelt Island Day Nursery. You, new Islander, are likely to run into someone you know on Main Street. You are likely to know someone that’s lived here over 10 years, or possibly someone that’s grown up here and is now raising their children here.
Now that all of the original buildings are going or have gone private, the Island is no longer a haven for middle-income families looking for a place to raise their children.
We are still attracting an international population – no longer solely United Nations families, but many scientists and doctors. We still attract educated, family-oriented folks. No one denies that this is still a great place to raise children. And let’s face it; people who have young children are probably less likely to move.
The difference with this new group of Islanders is their income; it’s higher, but these folks work more hours, making for less time to invest in the community. Their rent is higher, too, and not controlled by the state as part of a program to encourage middle-income professional families to stay put, so it’s more likely to decrease stability among residents.
With higher incomes, come higher rents and different types of problems for the community to solve, through its organizations. Community groups need to serve and be served by these new Islanders to remain fresh. They need to evolve to stay relevant and in so doing, need new Islanders at their helms and on their boards. They need you, new Islander, to help take them into the future.