Brooklyn pols push for answers in NYCHA emergency
The 396,581 tenants living in poor conditions in apartments run by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been receiving a great deal of attention from state elected officials lately, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who visited the Andrew Jackson Houses in the Bronx last week and toured apartments infested with roaches.
A few days later, Cuomo visited another NYCHA complex, the Taft Houses in East Harlem, and vowed to get $250 million in additional state funding for NYCHA.
Meanwhile, a group of state senators is pushing for several changes in the law to get rid of lead and mold in NYCHA housing units.
In the latest development, the state Senate approved a bill sponsored by an Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) member state Sen. Diane Savino that would add NYCHA to a current law that requires mold remediation and abatement be done only by a licensed professional.
Under Savino’s bill, NYCHA would be held to the same standards as private building owners when it comes to the removal of mold from housing units.
Calling her bill critical legislation, Savino (Coney Island-parts of Bensonhurst, Staten Island) said she is seeking to “hold the city’s largest landlord to the same standard as other property owners.”
The bill’s passage comes in the wake of the release of four separate reports by IDC examining safety and security issues NYCHA tenants face. “The IDC has released four reports outlying the deplorable conditions, including mold. The fight for 400,000 residents across the city is not over,” Savino said.
The most recent report, “Break the Mold: Cleaning Up NYCHA’s Mess,” investigated what IDC members charged is the lack of mold remediation in NYCHA apartments. The report found that 59 percent of tenants surveyed said they had mold in their apartments and 56 percent said it took more than two weeks for NYCHA to respond.
“Years ago, NYCHA rolled out a program called ‘Mold Busters,’” but we all know that’s not who you’re going to call if an apartment has mold,” said state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx-Westchester), chairman of the IDC. “For too long, NYCHA residents suffered with toxic conditions like mold that could cause serious health problems and I’m proud that the Independent Democratic Conference is taking the lead in the Senate to fix this problem.”
Many NYCHA tenants live in terrible conditions, according to IDC.
Another IDC report, “The New Flint,” which released in February, looked at lead in NYCHA apartments and likened the problem to the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan where high levels of lead were found in the water supply.
Following the release of that report, the state senate passed an IDC-inspired bill that would create an independent monitor of NYCHA.
Among the jaw-dropping findings in the IDC’s lead paint report:
79 percent of residents said NYCHA did nothing when lead paint was discovered in their apartments.
80 percent had children whose blood-lead levels had not been tested.
54 percent of tenants said they contacted NYCHA to request repairs, but waited more than a month for repairs.
63 percent indicated their apartment has peeling or chipped paint.
“This survey indicates what we have been hearing around the city from the 400,000 NYCHA residents daily: action is desperately needed. No parent should live in fear that their young child has been exposed to lead paint in the home, especially if we are unable to grasp how widespread the severity of this failure on NYCHA’s behalf.” Savino said.
Another IDC member, state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Crown Heights-parts of Park Slope-Sunset Park), said it’s imperative that the lead crisis is addressed as quickly as possible.
“Every child growing up in NYCHA housing deserves to be free from lead poisoning. Every parent raising a family in NYCHA housing deserves to know that their apartment is not poisoning them. As someone who grew up in NYCHA housing myself, I know it is our duty to ensure NYCHA lives up to its responsibilities to every NYCHA resident,” Hamilton said.
Dr. Mary Bassett, New York City’s health commissioner, pushed back against IDC and its stand on lead in NYCHA developments.
“These officials are playing politics with public health. Comparing New York, a national success story in reducing lead exposure, to Flint is alarmist and wrong. Exposure rates among children in New York City has fallen 87 percent since 2005, and they are even lower among kids in public housing,” Bassett told Fox 5 News.
The $250 million investment promised by Cuomo is partly in response to requests by NYCHA tenants for an independent construction manager independent of NYCHA to be assigned. The investment will also go toward repairs to heating and hot water systems and the removal of mold and lead paint, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office.
“At one time, NYCHA was the model of public housing, and now conditions are at the worst they’ve ever been,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Tenants living in these intolerable, inhumane conditions need help now, not in four years, and this administration is taking action to ensure a brighter future for New Yorkers.”
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