Housing Authority observes 50th year

GLOVERSVILLE – The Gloversville Housing Authority is celebrating 50 years of service to the residents of the city, and officials say the services and housing the authority provides couldn’t have been accomplished without the support and dedication of present and past board members.

“We are people helping people,” Housing Authority Chairman Tony Ferraro said. “That’s all we care about and that’s all we do: help people. I’ve always considered this a community within a community.”

A few local citizens in the 1960s labored to create the authority, which provides affordable housing to families in need.

“[The families] built this city, and to be able to provide them affordable housing is why we are here,” Ferraro said. “Many of their pensions are only a few hundred dollars, so without this, where else would they be?”

The Gloversville Housing Authority today provides housing units for 293 families and nearly 500 people, officials said.

The authority’s seven-member Board of Commissioners manages Forest Hill Towers, built in 1968, containing 108 living units; DuBois Apartments, erected in 1972, containing 85 units; and Kingsboro Towers, built in 1976, containing 100 units.

On March 18, 1963, the state Legislature approved a municipal housing authority that would be known as the Gloversville Housing Authority.

Ferraro, who has been a part of the GHA for 30 years, said the authority is independent of Gloversville and Fulton County governments, but is responsible to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD provides federal aid to housing agencies that manage housing for low-income residents at rents they can afford. The rents are based on the income of renters according to HUD guidelines.

Ferraro said the GHA has been successful because it is managed by people who live and work in the community.

The GHA is one of many low-income housing authorities created during the 1960s. They were linked to the effort known as “urban renewal” or “urban redevelopment” when communities engaged in large-scale demolition of older properties to revitalize downtowns, said GHA Executive Director Dan Towne.

Towne said the changes created a need for affordable housing.

He said many low-income families and senior citizens were displaced during the revitalization efforts, leading to the construction of new, safer low-income housing.

In March 1964, then-Gloversville Mayor Richard Hood appointed the first five GHA commissioners for terms ranging from two to five years.

Thomas Eastwood was appointed the first chairman. The other members were attorney DuBois Hawks, LeRoy Murphy, Robert Miller and the Rev. Joseph D’Agostino of our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

Later, after Forest Hill Towers was built and occupied, two additional commissioners who were building residents were added to what is now a seven-member board.

Today, five members are appointed by the mayor to five-year terms. The two resident members are elected by people living in the housing units to two-year terms.

“It’s important for those actually using our facilities to have a say, and that is why our resident commissioners are so important to what we do here,” Towne said.

Retired attorney DuBois Hawks had both the time and legal experience to work extensively with the Gloversville Urban Renewal Agency to determine the city’s housing needs. He later became the GHA chairman.

The DuBois Garden Apartments was named after Hawks for his dedication to the authority and efforts to provide affordable housing to residents of the city.

In June 1965, the Common Council approved the GHA’s choice for the location of the first high-rise in the area, at Forest and Carpenter streets.

In February 1968, the GHA commissioners approved final construction plans for the project, which became known as Forest Hill Towers.

The DuBois Garden Apartments were built in 1972, and the Kingsboro Towers was built in 1976.

The federal government isn’t providing as much money to the Housing Authority as it once did.

Towne said for many years, the authority would receive more than $1 million annually for general improvements, but today, the authority usually receives about $300,000.

He said the Housing Authority depends on the federal funding and the income from rent to make improvements such as making the buildings more energy-efficient with better windows, appliances and insulation.

Towne said he believes the housing available in any of the authority’s three properties is better than some of the housing available to families living in privately owned properties in the city.

Towne said because maintenance people are on-site and available, problems are addressed quickly at the authority’s buildings.

He said the DuBois facility has a self-sufficiency program where residents work to develop job skills, obtain referrals and work on budget counseling.

Housing Authority’s future

Towne said in the next 50 years, he doesn’t think the GHA will expand to provide more units or new structures, but the authority is always trying to find ways to expand the services it can provide its residents.

“The Housing Authority is more than bricks and mortar,” Towne said. “We provide a lot of services to the residents here besides only housing.”

He said the Housing Authority hosts the Boys and Girls Club, works with the Office of the Aging, provides polling stations during elections and is a Red Cross emergency shelter site.

He said in the future, the Housing Authority may look into providing more assistance for the elderly living in the Forest Hill and Kingsboro Towers who find it difficult to live on their own.