Former President Jimmy Carter was in the East Village Thursday to visit a property he helped build 30 years ago. Carter has been active with the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity group, which is building homes in the city this week. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
In 1984, Jimmy Carter came to an East Village neighborhood that looked very different than it does today. He, along with his wife Rosalynn and volunteers from Habitat for Humanity, rebuilt an East Sixth Street building known as Mascot Flats.
Carter talked a little bit about what the neighborhood was like in the mid-'80s.
"The garbage was more than knee deep," he said. "There were fires that people were living on, cooking their food and cooking dope, and that sort of thing."
As the East Village has gentrified, some of the longtime residents have complained of being priced out. It's a familiar story in New York City: as property values climb, poorer residents can get squeezed.
"As you say, it cuts both ways," Carter said. "I think gentrification is good. The second year we were here, we had a lot more volunteers than we did the first year, and we were able to get the neighborhood people to volunteer, to go around and take empty lots like the one we're in and clean up the lots."
Don Kao was one of the original tenants in Mascot Flats. He still lives there, but welcomes the changes that have come to the neighborhood.
"I don't know what it means to say that there's gentrification where there are no houses," Kao said. "You have to understand. When I moved here, other than a few empty buildings here, it was a whole empty lot."
Habitat for Humanity will be building or repairing 15 homes in Queens and on Staten Island. The Staten Island homes were damaged during Hurricane Sandy.