The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Residents Slam Living Conditions as NYCHA Chairwoman Visits Polo Grounds

By Gustavo Solis | August 4, 2015 7:07pm
 NYCHA chair visited the Polo Grounds Tuesday to announce that they will install more than 350 lights in the development. Affter the announcement residents confronted the NYCHA chair to complain about unsanitary living conditions. 
Frustration Over Living Conditions at the Polo Grounds
View Full Caption

HARLEM — Residents of the Polo Grounds confronted NYCHA's chairwoman and CEO about poor living conditions after a press conference Tuesday.

The press event, which started late because City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito arrived 25 minutes after the scheduled start time, was to announce the installation of more than 350 LED lights to improve security throughout the development.

But residents had other issues on their minds.

"A lot of tenants are fed up," said resident Ruth Mackins, who approached NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye after the event with about 10 other residents.

At one point during the press conference, when Olatoye asked everyone to give a round of applause to NYCHA staff for keeping the Polo Grounds safe and clean, Mackins and a handful of residents shouted "No, no, no."

She and others expressed concerns about unsanitary conditions, including late trash collections and people constantly urinating in the elevators. The residents did not condemn the maintenance crew and said they work as hard as they can. But they said NYCHA needs to take a harsher approach to those who trash their homes.

“We need to put them on blast,” Mackins, 56, said. “They pee in the elevators. It’s not only pee, they do everything in the elevators. I saw a condom in there.”

Mackins suggested posting photographs of people caught trashing the Polo Grounds.

Olatoye listened to the concerns for a few minutes, saying she liked the idea of putting cameras out there to find out who is making the development dirty.

She stayed on message, touting the replacement of the development’s old lights — which were first installed when the Polo Grounds development was built in the 60s — as the first step in a comprehensive effort to increase the quality of life.

“Everyone, no matter where they live, deserves to live in a community that’s safe, clean and connected,” she said. “Today’s ground breaking is laying the foundation for more, better lighting, which is an important component to improve safety.”

The lights are part of a larger, $80 million initiative to make NYCHA developments safer. Similar lights will be added in 15 developments.

Crime at the Polo Grounds is down 19 percent since last year but the recent shooting of Jordan Barber has left many people on edge, Olatoye said.

Residents welcomed the new lights, saying they will feel safer when walking around at night.

“When I came here it was not very safe,” said Serena Chandler, who has lived in the Polo Grounds for 17 years. “I’ve been blessed because I’ve never been robbed but I know a lot of people who have been robbed at gun-point, knife-point and razor-point.”

The bright lights will make her feel safer when she walks around the development with her walking group, which is mostly made up of seniors with diabetes, Chandler, 51, added.

The lights will replace all of the existing lights and a temporary NYPD lighting installation. The project should be done by the end of the year, a NYCHA spokeswoman said.