Issues with NYCHA & what you can do to help
Since 2001 the federal government has cut $3 billion from NYCHA’s budget
Some residents of Astoria Houses have been without cooking gas for almost two months- since September 22nd. NYCHA has not given tenants a timeline for repairs. Instead, they’ve provided a single hot plate for each apartment - one electric burner for tenants who are sometimes expected to feed families of four or more three times a day. It’s unlikely anything will improve by Thanksgiving. This is unacceptable, but, based on NYCHA’s history, not unexpected. Most NYCHA facilities are old and in disrepair. Tenants repeatedly complain of unsafe, unsanitary and unhealthy conditions, like peeling paint, vermin infestations, broken doors, broken elevators, sewage leaks, contaminated drinking water and no heat or hot water. There is an enormous backlog of unaddressed maintenance requests. These are just some of the reasons NYCHA’s considered one of the worst landlords in New York City.
For years NYCHA has been a victim of disinvestment and willful neglect at the federal, state and local level. This disregard has taken its toll- NYCHA now says it needs an additional $40 billion for repairs and modernization- roughly $100,000 per resident. The consequences of NYCHA’s and the government’s years of neglect have affected tenants’ health. During the pandemic the dangers have only intensified.
Tenants already experienced higher rates of chronic stress and illness, such as asthma due to poor ventilation, mold, mildew and vermin infestation. These conditions put a person at higher risk of severe disease and death should they contract CoVID not to mention the fact that poor ventilation itself helps spread the CoVID virus. Community group Justice For All Coalition sent NYCHA a letter and published an op-ed outlining these issues. They’d heard from some tenants that cleaning and maintenance had stopped altogether during the pandemic. NYCHA’s response side-stepped J4AC’s concerns.
Lead paint can cause permanent brain damage to children if ingested or inhaled (usually as dust or paint chips). No level of lead exposure is safe-- even low levels can cause loss of IQ, hyperactivity and other cognitive and behavioral problems.
NYCHA has a history of knowingly putting its residents in danger. From 2013 through 2017 NYCHA repeatedly lied about conducting legally-required lead paint inspections. This cover-up continued after Mayor de Blasio was made aware of it. When city health inspectors found lead paint inside apartments of lead-poisoned children, NYCHA challenged the findings and obstructed the removal process. In 2018 the city government admitted that more than 1,100 children tested positive for elevated lead levels since 2012. However it was recently revealed that the number of children exposed to lead paint in NYCHA buildings may be three times as high: around 9,000 apartments total.
Everyone has a right to safe and healthy housing. Everyone has a right to live with dignity. Public funding must be allocated to repair and modernize NYCHA’s buildings.
NYCHA and the city government’s disregard for their residents is racist and classist. Residents are overwhelmingly black and hispanic- around 90% of total residents. NYCHA is home to a high number of low-income, frontline and essential workers, as well as many elderly and disabled people. NYCHA and Mayor de Blasio have decided not to invest in public housing’s future, but rather to raise revenue with a financialization plan, and by leasing NYCHA properties to private, for-profit companies. This will put tenants’ right to housing in direct conflict with private companies’ profit motive. Tenant displacement is already happening in buildings where this has occurred. And because public housing is a last resort for many who would not otherwise be able to afford NYC’s incredibly high market-rate housing, “displacement” can likely mean homelessness. Everyone has a right to safe and healthy housing. Everyone has a right to live with dignity. Public funding must be allocated to repair and modernize NYCHA’s buildings.
Get involved with local NYCHA and housing advocacy groups like Justice For All Coalition, Housing Justice For All, and Astoria Tenant Union.
Attend one of AMAN’s Team NYCHA Outreach and their outreach days. Sign up to volunteer on https://www.astoriamutualaid.com/give-help
Contact your local electeds and demand a publicly-funded NYCHA for the people of NYCHA: https://j4ac.us/contact-sheet-for-electeds-of-lic-and-astoria/
Special thanks to Justice for All Coalition for graciously contributing their knowledge and experience.