Tenants of NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses get federal attention
Frustrated public housing residents pointed to exposed wiring, peeling paint, loose tile and other issues that have been plaguing their apartments for decades in a plea for help from the first federal official to visit their property in nearly 30 years.
“The apartments are very old. There’s a lot of issues. I have a loose light that constantly goes out in my room … There’s chipped paint that the kids can put into their mouth,” said Uma Kettrel, 27, holding his seven-month-old daughter.
Kettrel, his elderly mother and other Red Hook Houses residents were visited on Monday by Lynne Patton, the federal administrator for New York and New Jersey under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Patton was looking to highlight some of the more egregious and immediate hazardous conditions facing the largest NYCHA complex in Brooklyn — a sprawling 32-building complex with 1,411 total units. The Red Hook Houses are roughly bounded by Lorraine Street to the south, Richards Street to the west, Ninth Street to the north and Clinton Street to the east.
“The electrical wiring is terrible,” said Frances Brown, 65, who serves as the Red Hook Houses East Tenant Association President. “The wiring will crumble in your hands — that’s how bad it is. If I turn on my air conditioner and turn on the iron, the power goes out for my whole apartment.”
According to Assmeblymember Félix Ortiz, who represents the complex’s neighborhood at the state level and attended the tour, the conditions at the Red Hook Houses has been a top priority for Patton, who first reached out about surveying conditions on the property early in her appointment.
“The administrator — when she came to office — first reached out to me, but I couldn’t make the meeting … so then we rescheduled for today,” said Ortiz while touring the complex. “I have to give credit to the administrator for taking the initiative.”
Patton, who formerly worked for the family of President Donald Trump, was appointed in June 2017 and serves under U.S. HUD Secretary Ben Carson. In the last few months, she has developed a personal interest in NYCHA, living in various complexes to experience the hazardous living conditions of public housing residents.
“This is not about politics; it’s about people. This is a bipartisan issue. This has been going on for far too long,” Patton said as she toured the complex.
Patton’s visits follow a series of mishaps in the de Blasio administration’s oversight of the city’s public housing stock — including the resignation of the mayor’s NYCHA chair appointment, Shola Olatoye, over her handling of heat outages and her false certification of lead paint inspection requirements.
The mismanagement led to a federal lawsuit, which resulted in HUD and the U.S. Attorney’s Office appointing Bart Schwartz as a federal monitor over NYCHA.
De Blasio, with Carson’s approval, hired Gregory Russ, the former Minneapolis Public Housing Authority Chair, as the new NYCHA chairperson.
“Chair Russ has met with HUD Regional Administrator Patton, they toured a development together, and he looks forward to their continued collaboration. The Chair is taking a top to bottom look at all NYCHA properties to address the challenges our residents face and usher in real change,” said NYCHA Chief Communications Officer Barbara Brancaccio.
Correction (August 29 at 10:37 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Frances Brown’s name. It has been corrected, and the Eagle regrets the error.