Though I’d be impressed enough if one of his buildings was named the Dan Duquette Arms, retired slugger Mo Vaughn is compiling an impressive post-baseball resume, writes the New York Times’ George Vescey. Because after all, doesn’t everyone deserve to live
within driving distance of Scores in a safe, clean home?
Vaughn sniffs the hallways of the two renovated buildings at Grace Towers in Brooklyn, the walls and floors spotless, the elevator purring, security cameras at every turn.
œYou stop and think, Vaughn said with the same passion he displayed in a Red Sox uniform. œThere are people who have been living in Grace Towers for 25 years. These are people™s homes. People live and die here.
He™s not Santa Claus, not in that business suit. He™s an entrepreneur, and his chosen field is affordable housing, using bonds and tax credits and government approval.
Vaughn and his partner, Eugene Schneur, and their site manager, Mildred Pimentel, met me Thursday in the parking lot, behind handsome fences and electronic barriers. They used computerized cards, the kind used in hotels, instead of keys to get through the airy entrance. They showed me a community room in the well-lighted basement ” seven computers, used for enrichment classes in finance or college applications, open to residents.
With help from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his staff, and commitment from Citibank, the partners began in the Bronx and now have holdings in New York and New Jersey. Vaughn recalls one closing in which 70 people were spread over a dozen tables, all updating the fine print, for two days. Now people are beginning to see results.
œYou didn™t go out after a certain time, said Nelson Lee, who lives at Grace Towers and works there as a maintenance man. œYou™d step over people in the lobby.
œThe cabinets were falling out, the elevators were out for days, the roof was bad, the fans didn™t work, there was vandalism, Lee said, adding, œAs a church brother, I say I am blessed.
Lee™s wife, Daisy, invited me into their immaculate two-bedroom apartment, displaying new cabinets, closet doors, windows, stove, refrigerator, toilet, sink and tiled bathroom floors. œWouldn™t you want to be here? Lee said
In a few months, Vaughn and Schneur will take over the notorious Noble Drew Ali Plaza in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, a complex known for its toxic mixture of dilapidation and fear.
œArmed guards, cameras, tanks, whatever it takes, Vaughn said, adding that the first step was to secure the perimeter, putting up fences and installing cameras that capture a two-month history of every corner of every hallway.
œYou burn a CD, you see what happened, and a police car comes in, lights flashing, Vaughn said. œThe police will ramp it up if they have a tool to work with. That happens a few times, everybody knows.