Residents of Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City filed a lawsuit against the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) this past week.
The suit seeks to force NYCHA to fix hazardous living conditions that plague the public housing complex, including asbestos, lead paint, mold, leaks, and backed-up trash shoots.
Residents argue the conditions became even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent statewide stay-at-home orders. The suit also charges NYCHA with failing to conduct regular COVID-19 cleanings throughout the buildings in the largest public housing project in the Western Hemisphere.
“Any type of repairs that need to be done in my house, I have to wait forever to get them done,” said Marilyn Keller, a 58-year-old resident. “I put the ticket in, then NYCHA calls me back to tell me the date they are coming.
“So I prepare for the appointment, take everything out of the closet and cabinets, and ask for the day off from work but then they never come,” she continued. “They are a bunch of no-shows.”
Many of the tenants suing are older residents, including 72-year-old Pamela Wheeler.
“I am tired of living with mice, roaches, waterbugs, lack of heat, holes in my walls and sink, waterlogged and rotting cabinets, and many more repair issues that are a threat to my health and safety and an affront to my dignity,” Wheeler said. “NYCHA never repairs anything when I file a ticket, and it is so frustrating.”
The residents are working with the Justice For All Coalition, an organization that offers legal assistance to community groups in Astoria, Long Island City, and other parts of western Queens.
Residents then sought legal representation from Queens Legal Services, which filed the lawsuit on their behalf.
“For too long, NYCHA residents have suffered uninhabitable conditions due to neglect and lack of funding,” said Robert Sanderman, senior staff attorney at the Queens Legal Services Tenant Rights Coalition, who is representing the tenants. “There is little incentive for NYCHA to complete the repairs since the city will not record violations or pursue civil penalties against NYCHA for the numerous violations of the housing maintenance code.
“A great number of NYCHA residents are people of color who are also essential workers and are at high risk of health complications due to COVID-19,” he added. “These NYCHA residents are demanding systemic changes in the way they are neglected and ignored on account of their racial, social and economic status.”