On Tuesday August 17, 2021, residents, neighbors, organizers, and legal advocates gathered in front of the Queensbridge South Management Office announce the filing of lawsuit against NYCHA for their failure to make repairs and maintain habitable living conditions, and to demand investment and repairs now!
See JFAC’s full statement here: tinyurl.com/QBUnite
Press release below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 17, 2021
CONTACT: Yasmina Dardari, email@example.com, 646-442-2064
Residents of Queensbridge Houses Sue NYCHA for Failure to Remove Asbestos, Lead Paint, Mold, & Repair Other Hazardous Living Conditions Despite COVID-19 Cleaning Guidelines
For years, tenants of the largest public housing complex in the Western Hemisphere have submitted hundreds of requests to NYCHA for urgent repairs with little to no result.
Residents, predominantly black and brown, call on City to invest new stimulus funding into repairing NYCHA buildings, the City’s largest landlord housing 400,000 New Yorkers
Queens, NY – Today, residents of the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Queensbridge Houses filed a new lawsuit asking Queens Housing Court to force NYCHA to fix hazardous living conditions that plague the largest public housing complex in the Western Hemisphere. For years, tenants have submitted hundreds of requests to NYCHA to make urgent repairs across the public housing complex’s North and South Buildings in Long Island City, including asbestos, lead paint, mold, severe leaks, holes in their walls, backed up trash piles due to broken chutes and incinerators, lack of heat and hot water during the winter months, vermin infestations, and more. These conditions have become especially dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic, as residents complied with statewide stay-at-home orders while being threatened by the hazardous conditions in their homes. The lawsuit also charges NYCHA with failing to conduct regular COVID-19 cleanings of the buildings’ common areas as required by local and state guidelines and ordinances, resulting in the presence of urine, saliva, and other unsanitary substances in elevators and other high traffic areas.
Read the full complaint for Queensbridge North HERE.
Read the full complaint for Queensbridge South HERE.
SEE PICTURES OF APARTMENT AND BUILDING CONDITIONS HERE.
Tenants have been working with the Justice for All Coalition for organizing support and sought legal representation from Queens Legal Services, which filed the lawsuit on their behalf. Tenants also held a press conference today outside their building announcing the lawsuit and urging the court to force NYCHA to make the necessary repairs.
One Plaintiff, 72-year-old Pamela Wheeler, who resides in Queensbridge North, has been unable to properly use her kitchen sink due to a severe leak and clogged drain, which NYCHA never properly repaired despite multiple requests from Ms. Wheeler dating back to 2019. She has also repeatedly asked NYCHA to address a mice infestation in her apartment, to no avail, leaving her concerned for her health and safety. In addition to these disturbing conditions, Ms. Wheeler is forced to wear multiple layers during the colder months while inside the apartment to keep warm due to frequent loss of heat, which NYCHA also never repaired. This resulted in Ms. Wheeler suffering from arthritic body aches and pains due to the cold temperatures in her home.
“I decided to sue NYCHA because I am tired of living with mice, roaches, waterbugs, lack of heat, holes in my walls and sink, waterlogged and rotting cabinets, and many more repair issues that are a threat to my health and safety and an affront to my dignity,” said Ms. Wheeler. “NYCHA never repairs anything when I file a ticket, and it is so frustrating trying to get any repairs in my apartment.”
Another Plaintiff, 58-year-old Queensbridge South resident Marilyn Keller, is a breast cancer survivor with chronic health issues. Throughout her tenancy, she has been forced to navigate dangerous conditions in her apartment, including toxic mold and vermin infestations, which pose a heightened threat to her due to her fragile health. In additions to these biohazards, Ms. Keller’s apartment has exposed electrical wiring, a broken radiator, rotted kitchen cabinets, and a broken doorframe that frequently gets jammed, posing a fire hazard to her and her children. Despite making complaints for years with NYCHA to get these conditions addressed, NYCHA has repeatedly failed to make the needed repairs, even forcing her to clean up her flooded apartment on her own after a bathroom pipe burst.
“Any type of repairs that need to be done in my house; I have to wait forever to get them done,” said Ms. Keller. “ I put the ticket in, then NYCHA calls me back to tell me the date they are coming. So, I prepare for the appointment, take everything out of the closet and cabinets, and ask for the day off work but then they never come. They are a bunch of no-shows.”
In addition to forcing NYCHA and HPD to make the needed repairs and award damages to the Plaintiffs, the lawsuit also asks the Court to find that NYCHA has engaged in illegal harassment by failing to make legally required repairs and provide essential services to the building in order to pressure tenants into abandoning their homes. The tenants’ lawsuit explains that their case is representative of NYCHA’s pattern of neglecting buildings across the City as a cover to justify the transfer of public housing to private developers, as laid out by NCYHA’s own Blueprint for Change plan, which calls for repairs be decentralized and carried out by individual property managers. The Plaintiffs say their experiences are part of a large-scale displacement project to remove Black and Brown communities from land deemed valuable by big real estate and finance.
“For too long, NYCHA residents have suffered uninhabitable conditions due to neglect and lack of funding,” said Robert Sanderman, a Senior Staff Attorney at Queens Legal Services’ Tenant Rights Coalition who is representing the tenants. “Frustratingly, NYCHA tenants place numerous repair tickets and complaints but their pleas often fall on deaf ears. There is little incentive for NYCHA to complete the repairs since the City will not record violations or pursue civil penalties against NYCHA for the numerous violations of the housing maintenance code which is supposed to ensure the health and safety of NYC residents. Furthermore, when brought to court by NYCHA, tenants tend to pay the rent arrears NYCHA claims they owe rather than seek rent abatements for inhabitable conditions—out of our fear of losing their apartments. NYCHA’s continued failure to address repairs has compromised the health and safety of many residents especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A great number of NYCHA residents are people of color who are also essential workers and are at high risk of health complications due to Covid-19. Today, these NYCHA residents are demanding systemic changes in the way they are neglected and ignored on account of their racial, social and economic status.”
“As a purposeful, direct result of decades of disinvestment in NYCHA, primarily Black and Brown residents have been forced to endure the most inhumane living conditions imaginable. It has gotten to the point where residents are literally dying in their apartments, especially during the pandemic, and the response of most of the elected officials has been shameful. These courageous tenants have decided to that it’s time to fight back, and the entire city should be rallying around them,” stated Stan Morse, Lead Organizer with Justice For All Coalition.
“There is no public money.’ This is what residents and organizers are repeatedly told by NYCHA and its CEO Greg Russ and elected officials. But this is a lie,” stated Kristen Hackett, doctoral candidate at The Graduate Center, CUNY and executive committee member of the Justice For All Coalition. “There was $6 billion for Hudson Yards, and another $6 billion annually for policing, and potentially $14.4 billion for Sunnyside Yards – at the city level. There is legislation that has been proposed at the state level that would create new funding streams specifically for public housing, largely by taxing the wealthy. And at the federal level, we could start with our bloated military budget which is more than $700 billion a year and rising. There is plenty of public money, what’s missing is the political will. And more specifically, this is about the lack of political will to investment in and care for Black and Brown lives, a fact that is undeniable when we consider: 1) that public housing in New York City and elsewhere nationally is predominantly Black and Brown residents, and 2) that most public money for housing assistance is funneled to homeowners – who are predominantly white – through the home mortgage interest deduction. Moreover, the deterioration of public housing today is being used to justify privatization plans that would reorganize public subsidies to benefit wealthy, predominantly white individuals. We want to see direct public investment in public housing now. The money is there. No excuses.” Read Justice for All Coalition’s full statement HERE.
“NYCHA’s ongoing disrepair is intentional” said Ramona Ferreyra, social entrepreneur and founder of Ojala Threads and co-founder of the Save Section 9 Coalition. “NYCHA must meet HUD’s definition of obsolescence in order to qualify for the specific vouchers that are key to implement the Blueprint, Greg Russ’ latest plan to open up public housing to private investors and profiteering. This means that Greg Russ and NYCHA have a vested interest in NOT making repairs in public housing. He violated our human rights to ensure his legislative project moves forward. This is why we continue to demand his firing, and continue to demand that Section 9 (public housing) be funded immediately.”