Inside the Battle to Bring Broadband to New York’s Public Housing

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The second week of August isn’t ordinarily a time given over to novelty and ambition in New York. The air is a jellied vapor of sweat and refuse, and anybody who can afford to be elsewhere is. But the vast Queensbridge housing complex was an unlikely scene of neon-vested hustle. The six-story brown-brick apartment blocks along 41st Avenue had been encased in green scaffolding and draped with long, heavy bolts of cream burlap, which gave the blunt rectilinear forms a veil of anticipation. Queensbridge had been recently named the beneficiary of millions of municipal dollars for neighborhood development, and the attitude, a young press secretary from the New York City Housing Authority told me, was one of “all hands on deck.” Workers mended the leaky roofs and repointed the brick facades. Permanent LEDs had been ordered to replace the broken sulfur fixtures; in the meantime, mobile arrays of large klieg lights had been set up in the courtyards and along the thoroughfares. CCTV cameras were going to be ensconced along the perimeters and above the entryways, and layered-­access doors, like shuttle airlocks, were to be introduced along with key-fob admittance. Perhaps the most consequential upgrade, however, was invisible: the introduction of free, grounds­-­wide wireless broadband.


Inside the Battle to Bring Broadband to New York’s Public Housing