Jimmy Carter

This NYC Building Is the 1st One Jimmy Carter Volunteered at for ‘Habitat for Humanity'

NBC Universal, Inc.

Former President Jimmy Carter's "Habitat for Humanity" legacy is usually associated with single-family homes, but it also extends to the urban landscape.

A building on East 6th Street in the East Village known as Mascot Flats was rehabbed in the early 1980s, not long after Carter left the White House. Volunteers for the organization — including the Carters — worked with eventual residents like Don Kao, who has lived in the building ever since.

"We had to work every weekend. The commitment was every weekend until the building was up. I started '82, '83," said Kao.

Carter first toured the building in a suit, but see he eventually was climbing ladders along with his wife, Roslynn, who tackled the plumbing. Hands-on service became a major part of the couple's life after politics, and it started at the Manhattan building.

"It is the first building where President and Mrs. Carter ever volunteered with Habitat for Humanity," said Karen Haycox, the CEO Habitat for Humanity NYC & Westchester.

Things were so bad at the start of the rehab, the building barely had a roof. Things below weren't much better down below, as the neighborhood was among the city's most dangerous at the time. Fast forward 40-plus years, and apartments in the area can sell for millions of dollars.

Carter revisited the site ten years ago, and Mascot Flats remains affordable housing today. That allows neighbors Kao to put down roots, proving the value of a home extends beyond dollars and cents.

"So, we were in a way privileged by the influence Jimmy Carter had," said Kao.

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