CLAREMONT — Tenants at Morris Houses are still living with mice, mold and leaks more than a year after starting a court battle with NYCHA to force the agency to make repairs, according to their lawyer.
The lawsuit against the New York City Housing Authority, signed by 25 tenants, first appeared in housing court in September 2014. The agency reached settlements with all of them by early November and promised to repair their apartments within 90 days.
However, those repairs were not completed on time, according to Urban Justice Center senior staff attorney Garrett Wright, causing tenants to file a contempt of court motion against NYCHA in May 2015.
This summer, the agency said it had finished repairing the apartments, but tenants disputed the claim then and continue to fight it now, according to their lawyer.
"NYCHA keeps kind of saying, 'Oh, we’ve done everything,'" Wright said, "and then of course when I go to double-check and verify that, that often isn't the case."
"There are a couple of apartments where they have done all of the work, and I'm glad that those apartments have finally had all their conditions resolved," he continued, "but there are still at least 12 apartments where there are conditions that have not been yet fixed."
The list of conditions that tenants are still waiting on repairs for includes a missing smoke detector, a broken faucet, mice and mold.
"There might be more," Wright said. "We’re still trying to reach all the tenants."
Additionally, some of the problems that NYCHA claims to have fixed have already returned to tenants' apartments, such as mold, leaks, and peeling paint, indicating that the agency's repairs were mostly cosmetic, according to Wright.
"There seems to be, in at least some of these apartments, an issue with the underlying problem not being corrected," he said. "I’d like to try to get to the bottom of that."
Fatumate Toure, a Morris Houses' tenant, said her apartment is still plagued with issues, including a leaky kitchen sink and paint that is peeling off the walls.
The latter has become a particularly big problem for her young daughter.
"I have a 2-year-old who’s trying to eat up the paint," she said.
The case is due back in court on Oct. 8, and Wright believes a contempt hearing is still a possibility, he said.
However, he stressed that it would not be the ideal way for the case to end.
"My biggest hope is that NYCHA will just complete the work immediately, doing whatever is necessary to fix the structural issues," he said. "If that doesn't happen, we may need to have a contempt hearing."
The agency defended its work in a statement.
“NYCHA has made substantial progress towards addressing vital repairs at Morris Houses and continues to do so,” it said.