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Morris Houses Residents Living in Apartments with Holes, Leaks, Roaches

By Eddie Small | October 6, 2014 8:43am
 Apartments in the project are afflicted with roaches, holes and leaks, residents say.
Morris Houses Conditions
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CLAREMONT — When NYCHA workers came to Julia Saravia's Morris Houses apartment three weeks ago to clean some mold on her bathroom ceiling, they left behind a gaping hole that has since become home for a group of spiders, she said.

The workers did not fix the hole because they said it was not their job, according to Saravia, and while she waits for a more permanent fix, she has resorted to covering it up with tape and a piece of cardboard from a non-stick cookware container.

"It helps with the animals and the coldness that comes from up there," said Sergio Colon, Saravia's 18-year-old son.

Saravia is part of a group of tenants filing a lawsuit against NYCHA in an attempt to force the agency to make repairs to her and other residents' apartments.

The list of problems with the housing project stretches on for 17 pages in a draft of the lawsuit and contains issues such as roaches, "stove is broken" and "regurgitation in bathtub."

Saravia's issues include moldy walls, broken windows and a leaky ceiling.

The residents had their first housing court appearance on Sept. 29 and NYCHA received deadlines for repairs, according to Garrett Wright, an attorney at the Urban Justice Center, a group that works with low-income communities in the city and is helping the tenants with their lawsuit.

The deadlines vary based on how severe the damage is, Wright said. Some issues, such as installing missing smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, are supposed to have been finished already, while NYCHA was given 30 days to solve issues related to leaks and mold and 90 days to repair broken tiles or painting.

"If NYCHA fails to do the work under the court-ordered deadlines, we can then make a motion against NYCHA for contempt of court," Wright said in an email.

Colon was critical of the agency's past efforts at repairs.

"They come; they fix it; and then the problems just come back," he said.

A NYCHA spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on an ongoing lawsuit.

However, in a statement, the agency said the repairs are progressing well.

"We are moving forward with making repairs and addressing underlying conditions at this and all of our aging buildings in spite of shrinking resources," the statement read.

In a draft of the lawsuit, residents listed complaints about their apartments, ranging from roaches to peeling paint, but residents who are not part of the legal action face housing issues as well.

Felicia Cruz and Dondre Jett, who share an apartment with their 2-year-old son Ahmari, in the same building as Saravia, have been dealing with problems like missing chunks of walls, broken front door locks and broken electrical outlets for years, they said.

"I plugged my charger in there, and it just blew up," said Cruz, referring to an issue she had with an outlet about three years ago that remains broken.

Cruz and Jett said they would have joined the lawsuit, but they did not know about it.

One of Saravia's children is still in high school, but three are in college, including Colon, who said he is a sophomore at York College interested in occupational therapy.

Saravia was hopeful that this education would help lead her family to a future free of leaks and mold.

"I would like to move out. Maybe one day they can help me to pay my mortgage," she said. "I don't want them living in the projects one day. I want them to do better."