53,000 Artists Vie for 89 Affordable East Harlem Apartments

Rendering of El Barrio's Artspace PS109. Photo: courtesy Artspace.

If you applied for affordable artist housing at East Harlem’sEl Barrio Artspace PS109 (see artnet News report), you were not alone. DNAinfo reports that over 53,000 applications were sent in before the July 15 deadline, for a building that only offers 89 apartments (50 studios, 18 one-bedroom, and 21 two-bedroom units).

The overwhelming response from artists is indicative of the need for affordable housing—housing officials assured DNAinfo that other lotteries receive a comparable number of applications. “Quality affordable housing is hard to come by in East Harlem and people are desperate for spaces,” Marina Ortiz, a poet and founder of East Harlem Preservation who is among the applicants, told DNAinfo.

El Barrio Artspace, located at 215 East 99th Street between Second and Third avenues, will rent units from $494 a month for a studio to $1,022 for a 2 bedroom apartment. The space will also house arts and cultural organization, including the El Taller Latino American cultural center. In order to be eligible for housing, a single person’s income must not exceed $35,300, with families of four making no more than $50,000.

“We are not at all surprised with the amount of interest the project has generated because we know that there is a great need for artists’ housing,” El Barrio project managers Shawn McLearen told DNAinfo. It is the first subsidized housing project exclusively for artists to open in years.

The building’s lucky future residents will be chosen by lottery (East Harlem residents will be given priority), and will move in later this year. The building, formerly a public school designed by Charles B.J. Synder in 1898, had been slated for demolition before community advocates got it added to the National Register of Historic Places. The elegant Gothic building was purchased by Artspace from the city for just $1 in 2012, and has been restored and converted into housing by Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects and Victor Morales Architects for $52.2 million.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics