CLAREMONT — Residents of a South Bronx housing project say they are still living in moldy and damaged apartments roughly 18 months after a court ordered NYCHA to finish making repairs to their homes.
"We are still having mold," said Morris Houses tenant Julia Saravia. "The leaking is coming back again."
Saravia and other tenants at Morris Houses first went to court in September 2014 for a lawsuit against NYCHA over their living conditions.
A state judge ordered NYCHA to complete all repairs by February 2015, but tenants have repeatedly disputed that the repairs have been done, and they are now in the midst of a contempt hearing with NYCHA over them, according to Rajiv Jaswa, a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center.
He said the matter is due back in court on Sept. 1 but stressed that the tenants were still suffering from damaged apartments in the meantime.
"We're concerned that, while this keeps dragging on, the repairs still have to be done," he said.
Saravia had initially complained about leaks and mold in her apartment, and although she said last summer that they had been fixed, she maintains that they have since come back.
She was particularly concerned about how this would harm her family when winter comes around again, making it too cold to keep the windows open in her apartment.
"We're going to close the windows, and the mold is still here," she said. "We're going to get sick again."
Daniel Stubbs' apartment is also suffering from a moldy ceiling, and the bathroom sink has been broken and off the wall for about two months, he said.
"All I want them to do is fix the bathroom," he said. "That's all I want them to do."
His wife Sonia Reid was the tenant named in the initial draft of the lawsuit, where she complained of peeling paint and a broken stove, but she has passed away since it was first filed, according to the Urban Justice Center.
Superficial repairs have been one of the main problems with this lawsuit, as the people NYCHA has been sending to fix residents' issues are not addressing their underlying causes, according to Jaswa.
This has been particularly troublesome with regard to mold in apartments where tenants suffer from asthma or other medical issues, he said.
"Even though NYCHA has sent painters and plasterers, we’re hoping NYCHA will send people who can actually fix the conditions causing the mold," he said.
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NYCHA spokeswoman Crystal Walker said in a statement that the agency could not comment on the specifics of the Morris Houses case but was dedicated to improving conditions at the development.
"While NYCHA faces a dire financial situation after decades of government disinvestment in public housing, the Authority is committed to creating safer, cleaner and more connected communities at Morris Houses and across the city," she said.
Assemblyman Michael Blake, who toured some of the apartments on Friday, said he did not foresee overall conditions in public housing improving until more people from across the city realized what was going on and took action.
"Until we understand that this is a crisis, what’s happening to the residents that are living here, things are not going to change," he said. "Until people that are not living in NYCHA, not living in these communities, do something, things won’t change."