Below are two letters that were written to NYCHA about retaliation a tenant experienced after asking for repairs.
These letters were sent over a month ago; so far no response has been received. This is unacceptable.
We share them now because it is this emblematic of the invisibility and neglect that has perpetuated the challenges public housing residents face long-standing.
Good afternoon Mr. Russ:
I am writing to you today to let you know of some very disturbing living conditions and actions I have personally witnessed in a NYCHA community. Please also find below a second letter from a community advocate, Stan Morse, a lead organizer with the Justice For All Coalition.
My name is Lauren Ashcraft and I am a former Congressional Candidate (NY-12) and an advocate for my district. On June 19th, I was invited by a tenant in Queensbridge (41-06 Vernon Blvd. Apt 3c) to see the conditions she has been living in. When I arrived, I could not believe the state of her apartment. She explained to me that she was asking for repairs for the last two years, and a representative from Justice 4 All Queens stated he was also involved in reaching out to NYCHA with letters to ask for repairs for this tenant.
The conditions were as follows: peeling paint on bedroom walls, no bathroom sink (it was sitting in the hallway), crumbling (unfinished) concrete bathroom walls with gloves over the sink pipes, wires hanging from shower ceiling, and mold on the walls.
I recorded and posted a video to my social media following (https://twitter.com/
That day, repairs commenced, and we were invited back to her home on July 10th to see the progress. The conditions of her home were remarkably better. However, a letter was placed under her door, requiring her to go down to the management office that day. It stated that she was being considered for eviction because of “undesirability”.
We, again, went down to the management office to demand an explanation. At first, they could not provide any information and said to return on Tuesday when the property manager would be back in the office, but that they would note the tenant “appeared” as was requested by the letter (deadline July 10th). This tenant was going to have to wait 5 days to understand why a letter was placed under her door, calling her “undesirable” and stating that she may lose her home.
Later, the Congressperson, Carolyn Maloney, arrived. At that point, the property manager was called on her day off and the office was able to provide an explanation for the letter at that time. An arrest record for the tenant’s son from last year was suddenly an issue. As a note, tenants shouldn’t require a Congressperson to attend the management office with them to be given information on their housing.
I am writing this letter to note the alarming timing of the letter received by the tenant which caused fear and doubt and threatened homelessness for the tenant who dared to ask for livable conditions. I am writing to let you know that I believe this is retaliation meant to quiet tenants and prevent them from asking for necessary repairs. I will work closely with the Congressperson to demand livable and quality conditions for every single NYCHA tenant as well as to demand an accounting of every dollar of federal money spent. Finally I will be calling for an investigation into the retaliatory behavior exhibited in this case and to search for more similar instances.
To whom it may concern,
I first became aware of the many repair issues in Kim Marston’s apartment a few months ago, when she was referred to me by her son to file a Letter of Complaint against the Queens South Management office. The letter of complaint listed the horrible living conditions she has endured for years and it gave the management office a time frame to have the repairs done. However, Ms. Marston never received a reply from the Management office.
I personally visited Ms Marston’s apartment a few weeks ago, and I was shocked by what I saw. The repair issues that she initially listed in her Letter of Complaint had gotten considerably worse. What made the situation even more distressing is that it was NYCHA workers who left a sink outside of her bathroom, and cracks in her walls, and other repair issues throughout her apartment when they came to make repairs, but never came back to finish the job. Sadly, this is a common complaint from NYCHA residents.
After seeing the conditions in her apartment, Lauren Ashcraft, Ms Marston’s son Suga Ray led a contingent of concerned advocates, including myself, to the Queensbridge South Management office and we demanded that the work get done in her apartment immediately. To everyone’s surprise, workers were dispatched to her apartment that same day, and within a week they completed the work that had taken NYCHA years to do.
However, when I, and others came back to Ms. Marsston’s apartment to inspect the work that was done, it was brought to our attention that she had received a threatening letter from the Queensbridge South Management office stating that she was now “undesirable” and that her tenancy could be terminated. There were no explanations given in the letter, so once again we marched down to the management office to get an explanation.
The reasoning that was given for the letter being given to Ms Marston was based on an issue that NYCHA has known about for many years. So the question that begs an answer is why did they decide to come after her now? It is painfully obvious that the letter was given to her as a form of retaliation against her for asking for a decent place to live. She was, and continues to be deeply shaken by the experience, and her experience is exactly why many tenants are afraid to make complaints, choosing instead to suffer in silence.
This will not, and can not be tolerated.
Attached, please find a copy of Ms. Marston’s initial Letter of Complaint