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Chronic Mold Problem Plagues Polo Grounds Houses Apartment, Tenant Says

By Gustavo Solis | February 2, 2015 6:15pm

HARLEM — It seems nothing will rid Jacklyne Holmes' apartment of mold.

The 53-year-old woman and her daughter, Raelene Holmes-Andrews, 20, have been fighting with the New York City Housing Authority to remove the mold from their Polo Grounds apartment on 155th and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard since 2008.

In 2011, she took NYCHA to court and, with the help of then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, won. The mold came back in three months and in October 2014, she got the attention of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who asked NYCHA to make the repairs.

Recently, contractors told them to take 3-minute showers, keep the doors open while using the toilet and mop the ceiling and walls when she is done.

Still, Holmes said, the mold is back.

“They just paint over the mold without doing anything to whatever is causing the mold,” Holmes said. “I’m just fed up with it. What can you do, how can you fight? I don’t know what else to do.”

NYCHA’s policy is to remove the mold and then, if the paint surface has been compromised, to repaint the area. When mold returns, it is because the underlying cause has not been identified and addressed, NYCHA spokeswoman Zodet Negron said. 

Mold grows in places where there is too much moisture. These sources can be leaks, inadequate ventilation or moisture build-up resulting from resident activities and inadequate ventilation, she added.

In the latest chapter of the mold saga, NYCHA denied that the problem had returned, but agreed to replace the sink base and the tub enclosure and repaint and plaster the walls and ceiling, according to the city housing authority.

The sink base is rotting, the tub is damaged and the walls are cracked, which is why they need to be replaced, Negron said. 

Inspectors trained to deal with mold have visited Holmes' apartment, but have not found visible signs of mold in the apartment, a Negron said.

But Holmes insists the mold is coming back, like it did after NYCHA removed it in 2011. 

"Being in this apartment 21 years seeing this over and over again do you think I need a degree to know what is going on?” she said. "I know it's coming back."

Workers removed the shower lining in November but work stalled after Holmes requested that she and her daughter be temporarily relocated. They both have asthma and don’t want to be around the dust and fumes, Holmes said.

Holmes also has neuropathy, a disorder to the central nervous system that is often caused by diabetes but has been linked to exposure to mold, she said.

NYCHA has declined their request because the work does not require relocation, according to the agency.

Calls to de Blasio and Gillibrand were not returned.

For the last three months Holmes has been living with a white plastic sheet that separates her shower from her wall. She has not heard back from NYCHA since making the temporary relocation request, she said.

“I call and send emails but I haven’t heard back from them,” she said. “Meanwhile we don’t have a wall in our shower.”