The Mott Haven Houses became a backdrop for a new effort to bridge the ‘digital divide’.
Mayor de Blasio and Obama Administration cabinet member Julian Castro, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, visited the sprawling New York City Housing Authority Development on Thursday, July 16 to announce that 2,500 residents in the development who might not otherwise have access will receive free, high-speed Internet in coming years.
The planned connectivity at the Mott Haven Houses is part of a larger initiative led by the Office of the Mayor’s Counsel in partnership with NYCHA and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to ultimately connect 16,000 NYCHA residents in selected projects around the city with free wireless Internet with a $10 million investment.
This effort is being made in conjunction with President Obama’s ConnectHome, an initiative designed to bring Broadband access to the Internet and devices to thousands of people in 27 United States cities.
The first NYCHA site, in Queens, should go online in 2016.
“Through ConnectHome, my administration will be able to deepen our private partnerships and leverage our public investment in universal, affordable Broadband for hard working New Yorkers who struggle to support their families and desperately need broadband,” said the mayor.
Mayor de Blasio said that having access to reliable, high-speed Internet is important for fighting inequality because without sufficient education, access to information, and the ability to find and apply online to jobs, people are just “not in the game.” He called the connectivity a ‘game changer’.
During a news conference at the Mott Haven Houses announcing the initiative, the mayor told the story of a resident of the project, Nifitia Hazzard, who had to choose between Internet service which was crucial to her son’s education and ability to do homework, and additional spending on medicine.
Maya Wiley, Counsel to the mayor, said that access to Broadband should be available to all young people and their parents
“No child should worry about whether or not she can finish her homework because her family can’t afford Broadband at home,” said Wiley. “Every parent should be able to go online to see if their child has completed that homework, no matter the size of their paycheck.”
John Johnson, the tenant association president at Mott Haven Houses and leader of the Bronx South District Council of Presidents for 34 projects in the borough, said that residents at Mott Haven Houses struggle with being part of the poorest congressional district in the nation, and oftentimes even struggle to buy the devices and computers on which they can access the Internet.
Johnson said he was glad that the announcement touched on helping people obtain devices to access the Internet as well access to WiFi. Access to computer hardware is part of ConnectHome.
Douglas Frazier, co-chairman of the Digital Divide Project, an organization that seeks to connect people to the Internet, said that he hoped the new initiative would involve and engage the community in the connectivity process at a grassroots level.