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NYCHA residents unveil plans to strengthen public housing post-Sandy

Stephon Johnson | 4/11/2014, 5:20 p.m.

Recently, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents, community leaders and elected officials gathered on the steps of City Hall to announce a new report addressing how badly some NYCHA locations have recovered since Hurricane Sandy.

Residents from NYCHA residencies in Coney Island, Far Rockaway, Gowanus and the Lower East Side described some of their struggles stemming from Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath while helping to introduce the report, titled “Weathering the Storm: Rebuilding a More Resilient NYCHA Post-Sandy,” which was based on 600 surveys of NYCHA residents.

In the report, NYCHA residents complained extensively about mold and backlogged repairs (repairs that the former mayor said would be done by the end of his final term) and expressed a desire to be connected to better economic opportunities via jobs.

The report itself was a collaborative effort by Community Voices Heard, the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project, the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding and community-based organizations like Faith in New York, Good Old Lower East Side, Families United for Racial and Economic Justice, Red Hook Initiative and New York Communities for Change.

“Data from almost 600 surveys show that public housing residents in New York City are still suffering the impacts of Sandy, such as health problems from untreated mold and the need for critical repairs,” said Alexa Kasdan, director of research and policy for the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center. “We hope this report can provide a roadmap for the city’s new leaders to use as they assess how to spend Sandy-related funds, revise NYCHA’s emergency procedures and consider broader NYCHA reforms.”

Elected officials also weighed in on the report, including those who have many public housing residents as constituents.

“This Council takes this issue very seriously, and that is why we held our first ever field hearing at a NYCHA development in Brooklyn,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a statement. “I look forward to working with NYCHA and my colleagues in the Council to help NYCHA residents with their long overdue return to a normal living situation.”

Council Member and Public Housing Committee Chair Ritchie Torres grew up in NYCHA housing and understands the struggles of New York’s “forgotten” citizens. He praised the report for illuminating what some might want to keep under wraps.

“More than 16 months after Sandy, low-income households continue to confront unacceptable deficiencies and problems in NYCHA buildings that existed long before the superstorm,” said Torres in a statement. “This report sheds important light on what public housing residents want their recovery after Sandy to look like and what real NYCHA resiliency actually requires.”

The goal of those on the steps of City Hall is to partner with NYCHA officials, the de Blasio administration and the City Council to provide better economic opportunities for public housing residents. Lillian Roberts, executive director of District Council 37, said that the report gives the city an opportunity to right some wrongs.

“DC 37 applauds the coalition that has worked so diligently to uncover the many challenges NYCHA residents, workers and buildings have faced over the last 20 years, but particularly after Hurricane Sandy,” said Roberts in a statement. “The information in the report is an opportunity to finally begin the process of resolving these outstanding issues. We look forward to working with all interested parties on the resolution of these issues.”