When Tino Hernandez looks back, he dwells not on the drugs and the crime in his old Lower East Side neighborhood, but on the stability of the Jacob Riis Houses that he knew as a teenager.

For several years in the 1960s, he lived with his father in a red brick building at 108 Avenue D, part of the sprawling public housing complex named for the photojournalist who wrote How the Other Half Lives.

These days, Mr. Hernandez, 57, is more than a former tenant of the New York City Housing Authority. He is the chairman. And he remembers one thing most vividly about the Jacob Riis Houses, which were completed in 1949: the friendliness of his 11th floor neighbors.

You had African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, he said. You had Italians, you had Jews. We all lived on the same floor, and we kind of had a multiethnic kind of social network.

But times have changed at the Jacob Riis Houses.

He (Tino Hernandez)s not a limelight guy, said Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Housing and Planning Council and a former commissioner of the citys Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Hes not a big self-promoter. I think hes been more effective as a result.