Since forging a deal that would force the city to make improvements at its beleaguered Housing Authority, Manhattan federal prosecutors have been flooded with letters by desperate tenants begging them for help with everything from broken toilets to removing deadly asbestos, it emerged on Friday.
In the course of just four weeks — between mid-July and mid-August — US Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s office in downtown Manhattan has been swamped with more than 700 letters from the public about his settlement with the city over NYCHA’s failures to protect tenants from terrible living conditions, including exposure to lead paint.
The letters were elicited to give prosecutors a sense of what the public thinks of Berman’s proposed NYCHA settlement in which the city would invest $2.2 billion, including $1 billion in capital funds over and above what City Hall has budgeted over a four-year period.
But many of the letters simply beg Berman for help with repairs both mundane and deadly serious.
“I have the following complaints in regards to my apartment,” Irene Alavt of The Bronx wrote in a letter that listed seven needed repairs, including “toilet handle chain to flush need repair” and “closet handle needs to be replaced.”
Tenant Francisco Alameda of the Lower East Side sent prosecutors photos of a gaping hole in his bathroom, which he said was left there by NYCHA workers who came to remove the tub — only to leave after they found asbestos.
Alameda now has to bathe at a relative’s home, he said.
“We need your help …. please,” begged Angela Alvia of the Woodside Houses.
Alvia said she has been struggling with “an ongoing mold issue, broken and roach infested cabinets and electric sockets” as well as water leaks, cracking walls and windows that are “falling apart.”
One resident even complained of a dead body in the stairwell of the Saint Nicholas Houses in Harlem.
NYCHA in June admitted to a staggering array of atrocious living conditions in a deal that calls for a court-appointed monitor to oversee the billions the city set aside for improvements, if approved by a judge.
As part of the deal, NYCHA admitted to multiple failures that have left tenants without heat in the winter, fighting off vermin and worries about exposure to lead paint and mold, as well as lying to federal authorities about their efforts to identify and remove lead paint.
At the time, at least 19 lead-poisoned children were found to have been exposed to deteriorated lead paint in their NYCHA apartments.
On Thursday, the number skyrocketed to 1,160 children living in public housing who have tested positive for lead poisoning since 2012.
A hearing about the settlement will take place in Manhattan federal court on Sept. 26, and many of the tenants who wrote letters are expected to speak.
Source: Read Full Article