Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries has a simple wish: Residents in Fort Greene’s public housing complexes to have a “decent, humane and safe environment” to call home.
Unfortunately, many residents of the Farragut, Ingersoll and Walt Whitman houses live in apartments that are in vast disrepair and have to for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to fix basic necessities, leaving residents without heat, hot water and decent place to live.
Jeffries, D-Fort Greene, is calling on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to investigate the “possible mismanagement of federal funds” by NYCHA after the New York Daily News recently revealed that they , while claiming they were broke.
In front of the Farragut Houses on Sunday, Jeffries stood with Rev. Dr. Mark V. C. Taylor of Church of the Open Door, public housing tenant leaders and residents and explained why the federal investigation needs to commence immediately.
“This mismanagement shocks the conscience and requires immediate federal intervention. There are tens of thousands of hardworking decent families who live in this community and…are subjected to living conditions that are inhumane: There are rat infestations, insects, mold, broken elevators, criminal activity that is far too rampant, there are tenants that are given repair dates that two to three years into the future for basic repairs,” Jeffries said to a crowd of Farragut residents. “These living conditions are unsanitary, unsafe and unacceptable.”
Jeffries said that in response to demands for action over the years, NYCHA has consistently claimed that it is broke. But now, he said, it appears that NYCHA has “conducted itself as the boy who cried wolf.”
“If there are approximately $1 billion in unspent federal funds then the facts suggest that NYCHA is not broke but the system to serve tenets is broken,” he said.
Jeffries asks for the government to conduct a federal investigation in NYCHA’s federal funds management and to answer three questions:
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- How do we prevent this type of massive financial mismanagement from ever happening again?
Dr. Mark V. C. Taylor, who is the pastor of Church of the Open Door, said he has been living in the Farragut Houses for 22 years and has seen serious neglect of the public housing community. Taylor said he is disappointed his community has suffered quality of life issues and lack of funding while NYCHA actually had the money it claimed it did not have.
Taylor said that federal funds are not being spent democratically and equally between different demographics. He explained that he has seen the neighborhood’s gentrified community benefit from brand new luxury buildings being built while public housing residents live in apartments that are falling apart and won’t be fixed.
“Our Mayor is on record as being one of the loudest spokesmen against gun violence in the country, but what about economic violence? If you withhold $1 billion dollars [from public housing residents] that is the same as putting a gun to the heads of our community,” Taylor said to the crowd on Nassau Street. “If you withhold $1 billion while you build up luxury apartments and skyscrapers for rich people that is anti-democratic and immoral. The only thing that can restore this trust is to have a federal investigation by the government.”
The 57th Assembly District leader Walter Mosley——asked that the HUD act swiftly with their investigation and give the community solutions.
Dominique Bryant, the president of the Ingersoll tenant association, said that her public housing complex has suffered deterioration for years and NYCHA needs to accept responsibility.
“The issue is accountability,” Bryant said, who has been living in the Ingersoll Houses for 27 years. “As I walk around playground to playground, basketball court to basketball court, all I see is deterioration.”
Bryant said that the playgrounds are falling apart, there are no nets on any of the hoops, many are missing rims and one court only has one hoop. When she asked NYCHA to replace the missing nets and hoops, she was told to put it on a wish list, which was never answered. She believes that the lack of playground equipment and the terrible condition hurts her community.
“We have so much violence going on with our young kids because they have no place to play, they can’t play together in basketball tournaments so guess what? They are playing with guns with each other,” Bryant said.
One Farragut resident, Louise Crite, has been living with unsafe conditions in her apartment for over a year. Her ceiling in the bathroom is leaking and plaster is falling down. Crite said that NYCHA told her the needed repairs won’t be fixed until Dec. 2013.
“If my apartment is bad, there are people who have it much worse,” Crite said while she pointed to where the leak is in the bathroom ceiling. “People’s living conditions are so bad that they have asthma. The worst thing is that my repairs won’t be completed until next December.”
Jeffries said that NYCHA needs to answer their questions and hopefully, thanks to the federal investigation, they will be answered soon.
“There has been significant misappropriation of funds that should have been used to benefit the residents of public housing all across the city of New York,” Jeffries said. “We are here today so the facts can be known and we can turn this around and make sure that the residents of public housing in this community can live with the safety, decency and dignity they deserve.”