Since 1984, I have lived in Independence Plaza, a residential complex of three 39-story apartment buildings, with attached townhouses. It is located in the Tribeca neighborhood of downtown Manhattan. Independence Plaza was built in the mid-1970s as luxury rental housing. It was converted to state-subsidized middle-income housing and remained as such until 2004 when a new landlord purchased the complex and removed the state subsidies.
Some long-term tenants left, but many remained.
Longtime tenants were allowed to stay with stabilized rents, thanks to a strong tenants association. New tenants moved in and are paying market rates, for newly refurbished apartments. Each apartment is modernized when the original tenant leaves. Tribeca has changed over the years and is now considered one of the swankiest neighborhoods in Manhattan, with housing prices to match. Independence Plaza remains as a bastion of diversity within a community.I live on the 39th floor of “Building 1” – the northernmost of the three 39 story towers. With this series, I photograph my neighbors, original and long term residents, in their apartments. What does it mean to be at home in your multi-unit community, your neighborhood, your city?
I have lived in Tribeca for 30 years. My apartment is a rental – the complex I live in is one of 3 high rise towers named Independence Plaza. The three towers and attached townhouses, erected in 1974, were meant to be luxury rentals, but at that time Tribeca was mostly non-residential. There were practically no grocery stores, pharmacies, and the like to support a residential community. It was considered a “pioneer” neighborhood.
So the owners struck a deal and the complex was converted to NY state subsidized middle-income housing until 2004 when the buildings were again sold and the subsidies were removed. Some tenants were forced out, others remained, and the vacated apartments were renovated and rented to new tenants paying premium market rents. The neighborhood had changed dramatically since the mid-1970s.
When I, and my neighbors – first moved into our apartments, we had to qualify officially as “middle income” – we are teachers, nurses, artists, civil servants, social workers, writers. We have rented in Manhattan for years, working to pay our rent and bills and enjoy life in New York. The high cost of living has made it difficult to save for retirement, and many of us don’t own any real estate that can be sold for profit. We have contributed to the diversity of our neighborhood and our city.
For the past several years I have been photographing the original and long - term tenants of Independence Plaza. I am making portraits of residents in their apartments and in the common areas of the complex. My intention is to illustrate the diversity of the people and the created comfort of their residences. Every apartment may have same parquet floors and bathroom layouts, but people have in many cases transformed the mid-1070’s layouts into real homes. When I visit my neighbors and photograph them, I listen to their stories about the neighborhood and realize how important it is to maintain this diversity in our city.