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NYCHA residents: Repairs too slow

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 4/4/2012, 6:53 p.m.

Residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings in Brooklyn are fuming over what they claim are hazardous living conditions and years of unattended repairs. The issue has now spawned a lawsuit to get the repairs done.

Tenants and advocates from Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE) gathered last week in front of Brooklyn Housing Court, claiming that NYCHA is forcing residents to live in dangerous and unhealthy conditions and is misusing capital repair funds for other programs.

FUREE also wants NYCHA to 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 filed a group lawsuit against NYCHA to force repairs for tenants of three Brooklyn NYCHA properties.

"NYCHA needs to expedite repairs, especially the ones that are causing dangerous health conditions," said FUREE member John Saulters. "But they keep telling us 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 this system works for everyone?"

Saulters is referring to the Section 3 program, a federal mandate requiring a portion of new jobs using federal capital funds go to low-income community residents working for NYCHA contractors. NYCHA provides funds to the NYPD from its capital expense budget.

Public housing residents claim that thousands of repairs for NYCHA's units are backlogged citywide. Families, youth and elders are dealing with conditions in need of repairs including serious leaks, mold, disintegrating plaster on walls and ceilings, electrical outlets that spark and sizzle and unsecured front doors.

Sharon Davis-Night is a tenant of the David G. Farragut Houses and a member of FUREE. In May 2010, she contacted the CCC and asked NYCHA to repair the conditions that were causing mold and mildew to form on her walls. At the 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 she claims no one has contacted her.

"I've called several times to ask about the repairs," said 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."

Cynthia Morgan, another tenant at the Farragut Houses, had a fire in her apartment in December 2010. While there was limited damage from the fire, the FDNY had to break two windows in her apartment, break a door and remove her kitchen sink and cabinets to put it out. In January, Morgan called the CCC and asked for repairs to be made in her apartment.