A group of protestors rallying against Housing Budget cuts passed by President Trump Thursday afternoon at the NYCHA Head Quarters in Lower Manhattan. Photo by Keziah Tutu
Public Housing advocates rallied against President Donald Trump’s plan to cut over $6 billion from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Budget yesterday.
“Before I moved to NYCHA Queensbridge, I lived in Sunnyside for five years, but I was evicted from my house to a shelter,” said Ok Soon Son, a current resident of one of New York City Housing Authority’s Queensbridge housing developments.
Son came to protest in front of the NYCHA headquarters in Lower Manhattan. Twenty-five years ago, Son was evicted and then threatened by child protective services to either find another home for her two young children, or risk losing them to foster care.
“All human beings should know that housing is not a luxury but our basic human right,” she said. “If there was budget cuts and the government did not give me a house in NYCHA Queensbridge, my family could have been separated. There should be no family being separated from each other because of housing.”
Under President Trump’s proposed 2018 fiscal year budget, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will cut NYCHA budget by $6.8 billion. These cuts will affect public housing organizations which provide housing to about 400,000 New York City residents.
According to the NYCHA, this will affect the availability of public housing units, increase the cost of rent and affect supplemental housing programs such as Section 8.
District Council 37 AFSCME, the union for NYCHA workers, along with the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, formed a circle at the protest and shouted, “’What do we want? More funding! When do we want it? Now!’”
Julian DeJesus, a member of District Council 37 AFSCME said, the rally isn’t only about getting more funding, but it’s to make sure those funds go to the right places so residents live in better conditions.
“We know that it will be difficult to create a better system in NYCHA and public housing across the country if they don’t have the funds to do so,” he said. “We want people to live comfortably and there is no reason why people should be living in slums.”
DeJesus said that with the community’s involvement, the goal is to get the president and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and other community leaders to see the importance of funding public housing.
“We don’t want them to cut what we already have, which is already lacking,” he said. “We’re on the defensive at this point but if we could get more people out here, more people fighting, more people aware, we would be in a better situation.”
Betty Buck was sleeping in her apartment in Lillian Wald Houses when she heard a loud crash from the kitchen.
“It was the middle of the night and suddenly I was wide awake because I heard a huge noise in the other room,” Buck recalled. “It was late so I was nervous.”
She walked cautiously out of the bedroom and immediately saw the source of the noise – her cabinet unit had detached from the wall and crashed onto her stovetop.
“The last thing I expected was to see those huge cabinets come off of the wall,” Buck said. “How could that even happen?”
Buck, a tenant for more than 40 years in Wald Houses on Avenue D, quickly reported the incident to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and a maintenance worker showed up just days later but did little.. The worker simply moved the cabinet unit from the top of the stove to the floor directly beside it. The cabinet unit now crowds Buck’s small kitchen area and prevents her from using the stove. The wall from which it fell remains bare; on the white plaster surface covered with holes, she uses a thick black marker to tally the months that have passed without repair.
The Housing Authority says it will be back to repair the damage in June of 2012.
Residents say serious repair issues within NYCHA developments are spiraling out of control as buildings age and funding dwindles. Countless public housing tenants, like Buck, have come to expect two-year delays on maintenance requests.
Meanwhile, residents and health experts say the failure to repair serious problems – like water leaks that often lead to mold – are making some tenants sick.
Ruth Christie believes her home is killing her. A longtime resident of East Village public housing, Christie says she will die prematurely if she cannot be relocated. “(The doctor) told my manager that if I don’t move, this building’s going to kill me,” she said. Christie, 59, had emphysema and asthma prior to moving into her Lower East Side II apartment in 2004, and said her condition has worsened in recent years because of poor housing conditions. “I wasn’t on oxygen until I moved here,” she said. “Since (2007), I been getting worse.”
Christie is not the only tenant in the New York City Housing Authority public housing developments to blame poor housing conditions for difficulties with breathing and asthma. In every public housing development in the East Village — except LES III, the newest development — residents specifically pinpointed mold for respiratory problems, which raises concern about whether the state of disrepair in these houses poses a serious health issue.
NYCHA owns and maintains 21 developments in New York City. In the East Village, there are seven: First Houses, Bracetti Plaza, Campos Plaza, LES II, LES III, Riis Houses and Wald Houses. Public housing is largely populated by black and Hispanic families — and, according to both the New York City Department of Health and medical experts at Columbia University, both ethnic groups have a disproportionately high prevalence of asthma.
Toni Footman, 42, has lived in a large three-bedroom apartment in the Lillian Wald Houses with her sons for the past eight years. One of her children has been diagnosed with asthma, and Footman described some worrisome new developments with her own health.
“Lately my chest been really bothering me,” she said. “I’m really a healthy person. I’m a vegan; I work out. And it’s only when I’m inside of my home that I feel like I can’t breathe.”
Worried she might be developing asthma, Footman said she has visited the doctor multiple times. Her breathing problems persist, but a diagnosis has yet to be made.
Residents say a new centralized system designed to streamline repair issues has only made matters worse.
“When people say they have to wait two years for a leak to be fixed, and that’s in their kitchen or bathroom, that really is a problem,” said Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
To improve service delivery to residents, NYCHA introduced the Customer Contact Center, a centralized maintenance request system. Tenants with repair issues are now instructed to file maintenance requests with the CCC, rather than reporting to decentralized housing assistants. Initiated in 2005 and rolled out borough by borough until 2007, the CCC serves each of NYCHA’s 403,665 authorized residents who occupy 178,407 apartments.
Although the new system was created to decrease maintenance delays, tenants agree that repairs now take longer than ever before. According to community leaders, the level of resident dissatisfaction has risen in recent months.
“People are really getting upset,” said Assemblyman Lopez. “In the last three or four months, people have been calling local legislators and pushing me to speak. They’re really scared.”
According to General Manager Kelly, standardized data entry was a major reason for the creation of the CCC. The decentralized system, he said, did not provide critical measurements for service improvement.
“The CCC allows us to use data for intelligent reporting, so that we can continue to improve the system,” Kelly said. “For the first time, we know, authority-wide, what our needs are.”
At a recent public hearing, NYCHA General Manager Michael P. Kelly was asked to provide information on work order backlog. He was unable to do so. “We tried to pull [the information] together for this hearing,” Kelly said, “But we don’t have it for you today.”
Kelly recognized the gravity of the maintenance issue and sympathized with residents.
“Clearly it’s a situation that we are not happy about,” Kelly said. “No one wants to resolve this problem more than NYCHA.”
Unfortunately for Nilda Gomez, Kelly’s sympathy can’t solve the repair problems in her Jacob Riis apartment.
The most prominent features of Gomez’s bedroom are the disconnected pipes, jutting diagonally across the wall beside her bed. Contractors ripped the pipes out of the wall during the process of repairing Gomez’s heating system.
A dirty bathroom towel now haphazardly covers the end of the pipe that is meant be attached to the ceiling. According to Gomez, rather than removing the broken pipes, workers said that the towel would suffice.
“This just looks bad now,” said Gomez, “but when the heat comes on, hot water and steam will be coming out.”
The pipes weren’t the only casualties of the maintenance visit.
Gomez is also dealing with major ceiling leaks. Dressers, chairs and ironing boards are piled on top of one another in a heap in the middle of the living room.
“We have to leave everything in the center of the room because of the ceiling leaks,” Gomez said.
While the furniture may be safe from dripping water in the living room, Gomez isn’t so lucky herself. She is often awakened on rainy nights, her sheets and clothing wet because of leaks in her bedroom ceiling. Water also comes in through the bathroom and kitchen ceilings.
Like many tenants, Gomez is confused by NYCHA’s maintenance system.
“If the workers came to repair the pipes, why can’t they do the lock, ceilings and doors while they’re here?” she said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Consolidating these tasks into one visit would appear to be the most efficient option. But according to Gloria Finkelman, NYCHA Deputy Manager of Operations, the division of labor is necessary. “We’re a union shop and we’re glad to be a union shop,” Finkelman said at a recent public hearing. “Certain union members have certain job descriptions that don’t allow them to do other union work.”
Iris Betancourt, a tenant in Lillian Wald, was appalled but not surprised by the condition of Gomez’s apartment. “I’ve seen this before. Take them to court,” Betancourt advised. “Or else nothing will get done.”
Like Betancourt, many tenants consider legal action to be the only solution when it comes
Footman continued to call the CCC and received several separate repair dates, all between 2012 and 2013. She decided to fight back and brought NYCHA to court on September 14th, demanding action.
Following an inspection, the court ruled in Footman’s favor. Judge Sheldon J. Halprin ordered NYCHA to exterminate for roaches within 30 days, plaster and paint the kitchen ceiling, east wall, and bathroom walls and ceilings, and paint the north wall and closet. Although the ruling seemed like a victory, Footman has yet to see results.
“The only thing they did so far was to come back and look, again,” she said. “Nothing was touched, nothing was done at all.”
Three days after the court ruling, a NYCHA inspector came to assess the condition of Footman’s apartment. According to Footman, the inspector recorded the damages and instructed her to call the emergency number again and put in tickets for each maintenance request.
“I was like, ‘I just did that, and I went to court.’ Why do I have to keep putting tickets in?” Footman said. “Nothing’s going to get done.”
According to NYCHA officials, the backlog of repairs is a result of insufficient funding rather than poor management and flawed systems. Scheduling availability for maintenance requests is based on staffing capacity, and lack of funding has made it difficult to find solutions.
“Given the severe budget deficit of recent years, between 2000 and 2009, our operations lost 1,540 employees,” General Manager Kelly said. “Currently, NYCHA only has $1.5 billion to address such repairs.”
Still, Huff believes there must be a middle ground. Residents must respect and care for the aging buildings, she said, but NYCHA must take responsibility for making desperately needed repairs in a timely manner. “I don’t want to live like this,” she said. “It’s not my fault.”
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Urban Health, frequent asthma attacks may be more common in housing that is old or in a state of disrepair. Common symptoms of deteriorating housing are “water leaks, holes that pests can pass through, poor ventilation, and peeling paint.” Water leaks are considered a significant problem because they can lead to holes and mold growth in homes.
Residents from every apartment visited cited some or all of these symptoms as problems NYCHA failed to repair. The most apparent problem was mold growth from water leaks, and it was most severe in Campos, Bracetti and First Houses. Though NYCHA does not qualify mold as an emergency that warrants immediate attention, there is reason to consider it a serious health concern.
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, mold exposure “may cause or worsen asthma symptoms, hay fever, or other allergies.” But in addition to exacerbating asthma, it is possible that mold may cause the disease, according to Dr. Matthew Perzanowski, an associate professor of environmental science at Columbia University. “What’s been shown mostly in European studies is that children who grow up in damp homes…are more likely to develop asthma.”
In Campos Plaza, 12-year-old asthmatic, Angela Nicholson, said she couldn’t breathe in her bathroom when mold is present. Nicholson, who has lived with her aunt for the past six years, was diagnosed with asthma as a baby. Her asthma has worsened since this September, and she said it is most often exacerbated in the bathroom when she as at home. But, there is no way to ventilate the humid room because the only source of air circulation doesn’t work.
“Sometimes the vent smells a little nasty and it smells like mildew,” Nicholson said.
Nancy, a resident at Bracetti Plaza also complained about her inoperable bathroom vent. “If you put your hand there, you don’t feel a thing,” she said about the stagnant airflow. “So, that’s what causes the mold.”
Many East Village NYCHA housing residents blamed leaks from upstairs neighbors’ bathrooms as the reason for leaks and mold growth in their own apartments. According to the Department of Health, a persistent mold presence signifies an underlying problem, such as a water leak. To completely stop growth, the water problems must be fixed. Due to lack of staff and funding, however, NYCHA has been unable to make the needed repairs. Instead, if a contractor is available to come, the answer is to camouflage the problem.
Nancy, who declined to give her last name out of fear of repercussions from the housing authority, said she had already filed several requests for mold removal with NYCHA’s Customer Contact Center, but was unsatisfied with their temporary fix. “I had a problem with the (mold), a lot of mold,” she said, “and they kept repainting and repainting and repainting.”
This type of solution extends thoughout all developments, including LES II, where residents said it takes only three to six months for mold to grow back. In the past, Christie was told she would have to wait up to two years for NYCHA contractors to come to her apartment for repairs—and even then the solutions they offered were only superficial.
At one point, she had so much mold growing in her bathroom that the entire ceiling was black. Workers tore down the walls for emergency cleanup, but only painted over the mold on the ceiling.
“The mold is gonna still be there,” she said. “It’s just paint over it, so it’s coming back in my bathroom.”
In Wald, Footman has one child who is asthmatic, and another may also be at risk of developing the disease. Of the two sons currently living with her, the elder, William, 16, has been diagnosed with asthma. She said he recently started to complain about difficulty breathing and she believed his problems could be related to the state of disrepair in her home.
“I have damage to my bathroom’s walls; I have leakage; I have mold growing,” Footman said.
Footman’s younger son, Kevin, who does not have asthma, has had severe allergic reactions to allergens in the home. “(My) little one is nine, and he’s been having more breakouts because the mold is in the bathroom,” she said. “He’s inhaling that. He’s been scratching; his fingers all broke out.”
Another reason why asthma is so prevalent in children who live in public housing is because of exposure to pest allergens, said Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, a board certified physician specializing in occupational and environmental medicine at Gouverneur’s Hospital in New York City.
“The same way you can be allergic to cats, you can be allergic to cockroaches,” Wilkenfeld said. Cockroach allergies cause the lungs to swell and close up; “If you have asthma, your allergy is going to make it a lot worse.”
Citing multiple safety code violations, Footman filed a lawsuit against NYCHA in late August of this year. On Sept. 14, New York City Housing Court Judge Sheldon J. Halprin ordered NYCHA to fulfill Footman’s work order — exterminate roaches, fix leaks, plaster and paint walls damaged by leaks — within 30 days. As of late November, Footman reported that none of the court-ordered repairs were made.
Christie also took NYCHA to court in September for failing to make repairs in her LES II home. Problems with doors, cabinets and walls existed even before she ever set foot into the apartment, neighbors said. Christie appealed to both building managers and called the NYCHA hotline to submit requests for repairs. With a letter of support from her doctor, Christie applied to transfer out of the building because of her various health concerns, but said NYCHA denied her.
The letter outlines Christies sensitivity to allergens caused by garbage, gnats, grass and mold. “The smell of the garbage and…when they cut the grass is so problematic to her breathing,” a doctor at Community Healthcare Network’s Downtown Health Center wrote. “When the sewer system backs up, knats appear all over the house…Her current living conditions are a problem and she urgently needs to move.”
Christie won her court case and the judge ordered the authority to make repairs. After years of waiting, NYCHA finally sent contractors to plaster holes in the walls; however, Christie was told she would still have to wait until 2012 new doors and cabinets.
After applying for a transfer two more times, Christie was finally approved. She has yet to receive word from NYCHA about when and where she will be relocated.
As part of a three-month investigation, the Local East Village requested a series of documents under the Freedom of Information Law from NYCHA. The authority responded that it had 30,000 to 35,000 documents that might be responsive to a request for copies of tests, reports or other statistics involving health concerns related to housing conditions. However, the authority has yet to make the documents available for inspection.
The LEV also made numerous attempts to speak with the New York City Health Department on how problems — such as mold, poor air quality and allergens — might affect the overall respiratory health of residents, but was declined an interview every time. According to a spokeswoman with the department, “There is no one available for an interview on this.”
Public housing developments in the East Village are riddled with problems. There are leaky ceilings, walls and pipes; broken windows; fallen doors and cabinets; chipped and peeling paint; cracked or missing tiles, moldings and doorways; holes in walls and ceilings; inoperative vents; broken doorknobs and apartment doors; faulty appliances; and prevalent mold growth on bathroom ceilings and walls, a three-month investigation uncovered.
And, unfortunately, the list goes on.
A thorough investigation into New York City Housing Authority developments within the East Village brought a group of reporters into more than two dozen apartments. They visited every East Village public housing development — Lillian Wald Houses; Jacob Riis Houses; Pedro Albizu Campos Plaza I and II; Lower East Side II and III; Judge Max Meltzer Tower; Mariana Bracetti Plaza; and First Houses — and spoke with about 50 residents.
In addition to visiting dozens of apartments, reporters combed through hundreds of Department of Building and Environmental Control Board records; examined dozens of court cases; and consulted legal aid, community leaders, advocacy groups and elected officials.
Reporters captured hours of video and audio interviews with residents, and took hundreds of photos documenting substandard conditions.
Betty Buck, 67, a 43-year resident of Wald Houses, was at home sleeping on Aug. 30 when her kitchen cabinets came crashing down. NYCHA workers came to inspect the damage, but all they did was move the cabinet unit into her hallway — blocking the already-narrow space. She was given a repair appointment of February 2011 — almost 6 months after the damage occurred.
But that’s not the only issue Buck faces. She also has holes in her walls and ceiling, and peeling paint, from water damage; mold in her bathroom; and a roach infestation, despite an otherwise clean and well-kempt apartment.
Nilda Gomez, a tenant in Riis Houses, also faces many disrepair issues. The worst offense happened during the summer, when NYCHA workers came to repair her heating system. They disconnected her steam pipes and left them that way for months, jutting diagonally across her bedroom.
In the process of fixing a broken pipe in Gomez’s bathroom, workers instead wrapped a blanket secured with tape around the busted pipe. Other pipes throughout her apartment have been patched with duct tape.
Also in Gomez’s apartment are holes in the ceiling and walls; mold in the bathroom; broken tiles and moldings; broken windows and closet doors; and a lock on her apartment door that only opens from the inside.
After years of assigning housing assistant receptionists at individual properties to deal with tenants’ requests for repairs, NYCHA in 2005 began to introduce the Centralized Call Center, a hotline tenants can call to schedule routine repairs during regular business hours or to report emergencies 24 hours a day.
According to General Manager of Operation Michael Kelly, “NYCHA proposed the creation of a centralized call center, aimed at improving service delivery to residents, standardizing data entry for (work tickets) and scheduling appointments.” Kelly spoke at an Oct. 26 public hearing on housing.
But, from residents’ points of view, the call center has been a huge failure.
At the start of this investigation, reporters requested a series of documents from NYCHA under the Freedom of Information law. The authority responded saying it had “possibly 140,000 documents” of call center data in the past three years for East Village developments alone. However, NYCHA said it would charge for staff time to gather the documents in addition to 25 cents per page. NYCHA failed to provide a detailed index of the documents — as required under the FOI law — and has yet to produce any of the documents requested, despite months of negotiations with reporters.
Because no documents have been made available, the average time residents wait for repairs is unclear. But, according to residents, the average wait time is at least one year — and often as long as two or three years.
“NYCHA understands and respects our residents’ frustration over the current backlog of repair and maintenance work. No one wants to resolve this problem more than NYCHA,” Kelly said at the Oct. 26 public hearing.
No one denies the fact that the New York City Housing Authority is strapped for cash. The city agency has a growing deficit that it worsened by its lack of federal funding and increasing demand for repairs.
“In 2005, NYCHA’s comprehensive physical needs assessment identified a 5-year $7.5 billion need to fully address the repair and maintenance across the authority,” Kelly said at the hearing. “Currently NYCHA only has $1.5 billion to address such repairs.”
Victor Bach, senior housing policy analyst for the Community Service Society, has spent a great deal of time looking into NYCHA’s budget and meeting with officials to come up with solutions.
“When you have a $7 billion backlog in capital need that can’t or won’t be addressed by Washington, what ultimately happens is that your deterioration accelerates and your repair needs begin to escalate,” Bach said. “The needs are growing at the same time the centralized call center is experiencing problems responding. It’s a combination.”
Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who chairs the New York State Assembly’s committee on housing, led the public hearing on Oct. 26. Lopez acknowledged the funding problem but insisted it wasn’t the only trouble the authority has.
“We realize it’s a funding problem, but as a few people have mentioned, it’s also an operational problem,” Lopez said.
While NYCHA admits the backlog of repairs is an issue, the agency has yet to provide data that shows the number of unfulfilled work orders.
But, according to figures reported by The New York Times on Oct. 24, NYCHA has a total backlog of 106,000 work orders — 9,000 of which are scheduled for 2012 and an additional 300 scheduled for 2013.
Toni Footman, an 18-year resident of Lillian Wald Houses, grew so tired of waiting for repairs to be made, she took NYCHA to court on Sept. 14.
The judge ruled that NYCHA had to fulfill Footman’s maintenance request — fix leaks, exterminate for roaches, plaster and paint walls damaged by leaks — within 30 days.
More than two months after the court ruling, NYCHA has yet to make any repairs in Footman’s apartment.
“They told me by 2013 they can do the work,” she said with a sigh. “They’re still saying they don’t have the right supplies; they don’t have contractors.”
Tenants from all East Village developments tell similar stories: They’ve been waiting years upon years for NYCHA to fix damages in their apartments. This can take a toll on residents, especially on the elderly and disabled.
Residents from Meltzer Tower, an all-senior development in the East Village, worry about their health in the winter months. They say NYCHA turns the heat off in their building between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., a complaint echoed by tenants in several other East Village developments.
“Some of the residents here are incredibly ill,” said Sara Augustin, 65. “We’re older, you know? The cold goes straight to our bones.”
Augustin, who has rallied her neighbors and garnered 30 signatures for a petition demanding the heat be left on at night, recorded whom she claims to be a NYCHA official explaining their heat policy.
In the recording, the man tells Augustin that NYCHA will only turn the heat on at night if it is below 20 degrees outside — which is 20 degrees colder than what’s required by the New York City Housing Maintenance Code. The law requires building owners to provide heat between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. if the temperature outside is below 40 degrees — and if it’s below 55 degrees between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
In an e-mail response from NYCHA’s press office, NYCHA maintained it does follow the Housing Maintenance Code.
However, according to the Department of Housing Preservation & Development, who enforces the City Housing Maintenance Code, NYCHA is not held to these same standards.
“HPD does not have jurisdiction or the responsibility of enforcing the Housing Maintenance Code in NYCHA properties,” HPD spokesman Eric Bederman wrote in an e-mail.
Another issue that negatively affects elderly and disabled tenants is the frequent elevator breakdowns in NYCHA buildings.
NYCHA owns more than 60 buildings in the East Village, which are divided into eight developments. According to the Department of Buildings, NYCHA has accrued 741 building violations, some which date back as far as 1972; 275 of these are listed as “open” or “active,” meaning the DOB has no record of these violations being addressed.
More than 152 of them are Environmental Control Board violations — the most serious kind. A total of 20 of these serious infractions remain “open.”
The majority of the violations issued to NYCHA are because of poor exterior wall conditions, and shoddy elevator and boiler maintenance. Most are not considered hazardous to residents, according to the DOB, but they are considered major violations.
As for elevators, specifically, the DOB says NYCHA developments in the East Village alone have been hit with more than 60 building violations for failing to maintain elevators.
According to documents from the DOB, NYCHA has taken anywhere from two months to seven years to address elevator problems. Tenants say they are often forced to walk up and down flights of stairs because their building’s elevator is out of service — and disabled and wheelchair-bound residents say they’ve been trapped for days on end waiting for elevator repairs.
Of these 60 elevator-related infractions, the DOB says, 12 are still “open,” meaning the DOB has not received a certificate indicating the problems have been fixed.
In addition to quality-of-life problems tenants face, many are also up against health concerns they believe are linked to dilemmas involving disrepair. Many residents — young and old alike — worry poor housing conditions have caused or worsened respiratory problems such as asthma.
Frequent asthma attacks have been linked to the presence of moisture, mildew and cockroach allergens in homes, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Urban Health. The presence of allergens that cause asthma may be more common in housing that is in old or in a state of disrepair, the study said. Common symptoms of deteriorating housing are “water leaks, holes that pests can pass through, poor ventilation and peeling paint.”
Residents from every East Village development cited all of these as problems NYCHA failed to repair. Mold growth from water leaks was the most apparent — and severe — in all apartments where residents suffered from asthma.
Although NYCHA has failed to provide specific documents on health concerns related to poor housing conditions — such as mold, asbestos, gas leaks and paint — the authority said it had between 30,000 and 35,000 such documents for East Village developments alone.
Toni Footman and her children, for instance, have experienced breathing problems, which she believes are exacerbated by the presence of mold, cockroaches and extensive water damage throughout her apartment.
“Lately my chest been really bothering me,” she said. “I’m really a healthy person. I’m a vegan; I work out. And it’s only when I’m inside of my home that I feel like I can’t breathe.”
Her children’s doctor has diagnosed one of her two sons with asthma; the other, they believe, is allergic to cockroach allergens.
“(My) little one is nine, and he’s been having more breakouts because the mold is in the bathroom,” she said. “He’s inhaling that. He’s been scratching; his fingers all broke out.”
What frustrates Footman even more about this situation is NYCHA’s lack of response, despite the September ruling in housing court.
Footman has been actively searching for another place to live, which is no small task, considering she only pays $245 in rent every month.
“I’ve been filling out applications now to try to move,” she said. “If I do happen to find something, I can move out of here because it’s disgusting.”
With reporting from Alexandra DiPalma, Sarah Tung, Simon McCormack, Shamira Muhammad, Zanub Saeed and Reinhard Cate