Queensbridge Connected: A look inside the effort to bring free Wi-Fi to North America’s largest public housing complex.

City of New York
Feb 5, 2017 · 4 min read

Photographs by Edwin J. Torres

The view from the top of the Queensbridge Houses where free Wi-Fi is going to be installed.

In the heart of Long Island City sits Queensbridge Houses — former home to New York legends like NBA star Sean Green and hip hop legend Nas. In stark contrast to the Queensbridge of a decade ago, its residents have seen an entire year without a single homicide, and this week, Mayor de Blasio visited Queensbridge to announce a new initiative to prevent gun violence. Queensbridge North and South together represent the largest public housing complex in America, and the de Blasio administration has also invested deeply in its infrastructure, recently completing a $87 million project to replace leaking and dilapidated roofs and address mold concerns.

But beyond infrastructure and safety, we are also investing in opportunity and access. Last year, the Mayor announced a $10 million commitment to bring free Wi-Fi to five NYCHA housing complexes, beginning with Queensbridge Houses. Wired’s November issue — guest edited by President Obama — highlighted the installation at Queensbridge as part of a focus on “internet frontiers.” Indeed, New York City is leading the nation with its plethora of initiatives geared toward improving internet access for all New Yorkers, and NYCHA Wi-Fi installations are a just a piece of this larger puzzle.

April Andrews, a local resident and Assistant Project Manager see her work as an activism role to better her community to inform neighbors, schedule install appointments, and oversee the process.

Wi-Fi installation has been ongoing since last summer, and in mid-December, Wi-Fi went live for the first block of apartments at Queensbridge, bringing free internet to approximately 500 apartments and around 1,000 residents — meaning that students will have a easier time doing homework, parents can look for jobs and access resources, and Queensbridge has taken a giant step to becoming more connected. The Wi-Fi for the next block of apartments is set to go live any day now, which will roughly double the number of people receiving free service.

Quan installs a router inside the apartment of Bao Chun Liu, 74, in the Queensbridge houses.

This photo essay follows the work of Queensbridge residents, Shameya Muniz and April Andrews, who are leading the charge to better their own community with these upgrades. They were hired by Spot On Networks, the provider that partnered with the City to install Wi-Fi at Queensbridge. With 96 buildings that house over 6,500 New Yorkers, Shameya, April, and the Spot On team are working to inform neighbors, address their concerns, and bring internet to their homes.

Quan prepares for installs in block “E” of Queensbruidge. Quan’s job is too install the wireless routers in the closet of every third apartment. (Top Right) Derek Smith 55, waits during an installation with his son Shaleek. Derek has 7 boys and 2 girls and finds that free internet would make life a lot easier.
April works in the basement level to confirm the connections are correct.

“This to me is a personal thing to have this project be successful is so important. I was able to bring my passion, something I spent years studying, to my community where I live for their benefit. At the end of the day it has to get done. The wheel has to keep going.” April Andrews, Assistant Project Manager.

Patch cables connecting apartment units to the wireless service provider need to be reset and tested.
Dave Smith, 77, a resident at 40–03, studies Hebrew and accounting at home with the hope of finding a job while Quan works on installing the wireless router in his closet

“I am very very proud, the fact that I am involved in something that is coming for my people because I was born and raised here so this is really my home and it means a lot to me. Its not just a job I put my reputation and my everything into this.” Shameya Muniz, Customer Relations at Spot On Networks

Shameya Muniz, a local resident and now employee at Spot On is in charge of informing residents on the Wi-Fi service and ensuring they have a steady connection to the internet.

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