Tenants and Advocates Sue NYCHA to Force Repairs

March 1, thumb_too old to live with mold2012, Brooklyn, NY— Tenants and advocates from Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE) gathered today in front of Brooklyn Housing Court to demand that NYCHA stop forcing residents to live in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, stop misusing capital repair funds for other programs, enhance its Centralized Calling Center (CCC) to prioritize backlogged repair tickets and make repairs in a timely manner, and to use Section 3 funding to train and hire unemployed residents to make repairs. Following the event, attorneys from South Brooklyn Legal Services (a program of Legal Services NYC) filed a group lawsuit against NYCHA to force repairs for tenants of three Brooklyn NYCHA properties. 

NYCHA residents who make repair requests through the CCC often wait months or years to have those repairs made. Citywide, thousands of repairs for NYCHA’s units are back-logged. Families, youth and elders are forced to live with conditions that threaten their health and safety, including serious leaks, mold, disintegrating plaster on walls and ceilings, electrical outlets that spark and sizzle, and unsecured front doors.

 Sharon Davis-Night (left, speaking) is a tenant of the David G. Farragut Houses and a member of FUREE.  In May of 2010 she contacted the CCC and asked NYCHA to repair the conditions that were causing mold and mildew to form on her walls. At that time, she was given a repair ticket and was told that a contractor would contact her within 30 days. Almost two years have passed and no one has contacted Ms. Davis-Night.

“I’ve called several times to ask about the repairs,” said Ms. Davis-Night. “The last time, I was told that I could not request a new ticket because the ticket from May 2010 is still open. Meanwhile, I am still living with mold and mildew. I now have a respiratory infection and I am worried that the conditions are beginning to affect my 21-year-old son.”

Advocates called on NYCHA Chair John Rhea to heed the recommendations of a report card issued in 2011 by FUREE, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), Community Voices Heard, Mothers on the Move (MOM), CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities and the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center. That report card gave poor grades to NYCHA’s repair system, highlighting problems with the timeliness and quality of repairs. Many of the organizations came from around New York City to support the resident-litigants.

FUREE Member John Saulter said, “NYCHA needs to expedite repairs, especially the ones that are causing dangerous health conditions. But they keep telling you that they don’t have enough money though they have enough to pay millions to the police department for services we already pay for through our taxes. Why not take that money, train and hire unemployed residents, and make it so that this system works for everyone.” Saulter refers to the Section 3 program, a federal mandate requiring that a portion of new jobs from federal capital funds go to low-income community residents working for NYCHA contractors. Funding to the NYPD from NYCHA is from NYCHA’s capital expense budget.

Cynthia Morgan, also a tenant at the Farragut Houses, had a fire in her apartment on December 11, 2011. While there was limited damage from the fire, the Fire Department had to break two windows in her apartment, break a door, and remove her kitchen sink and cabinets. In January 2012, Ms. Morgan called NYCHA’s Customer Contact Center and asked for repairs to be completed in her apartment.

“NYCHA told me that someone would come to my apartment to complete the repairs on December 26, 2012. By then I will have lived with boarded-up windows for more than a year. It’s unsafe and unhealthy. People shouldn’t have to live like this. NYCHA needs to fix the system so that we can live in our homes with dignity.”

Brent Meltzer, Housing Unit Co-Director at South Brooklyn Legal Services, which is representing the tenants, said “It is unconscionable that NYCHA believes it is okay for tenants to wait two or three years for repairs. What message does it send when a city agency is acting like a slumlord? Hopefully this lawsuit will get needed repairs for the tenants and also be a wakeup call for NYCHA to remember its mission— to provide safe, affordable housing for our neediest citizens.”

Valery Jean, FUREE Executive Director said, “In this economy, it’s even more critical to ensure that our largest affordable housing stock is maintained for generations to come. When budgets are balanced on the backs of low income and working class communities, it is up to those who are negatively affected to make a stand to let decisionmakers know it’s no longer acceptable to be treated as less than a human being.”

South Brooklyn Legal Services Housing Unit Co-Director Brent Meltzer with Councilmember Charles Barron, tenants, and advocates.

 

SBLS Client Sharon Davis-Night holding the toothbrush she's been using to clean mold and mildew off of her walls since 2010.

 


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