Pols call for repairs at Woodside Houses

By Christina Santucci

Tina Ferguson has lived in the Woodside Houses all her life, but the 54-year-old says she now often spends the night with her mother in Jamaica because she cannot stand the state of disrepair in her first-floor apartment.

The tiles in the bathroom are peeling off the floor and revealing older ones underneath, the bathroom sink has fallen off the wall several times over the past few years and there are bubbles in the walls behind her couch and above the kitchen sink, which she believes are from water seeping down from upstairs.

During a visit by elected officials and TimesLedger Newspapers staff Monday, a dead waterbug lay on the floor of the kitchen.

Ferguson, who lives in the apartment with her grandson, Meyer, and uses oxygen to treat her sarcoidoses, described worms coming out of the walls and mold and mildew, which make it difficult for her to breathe.

On Tuesday, a note under her door informed Ferguson that her bathroom would be scraped and painted starting Thursday, she said.

“People don’t even want to come to my house because they see the mice sticking on the traps,” she said at a news conference the day before organized by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). The elected officials joined residents in calling on the New York City Housing Authority to speed up repairs at the complex and throughout public housing.

Van Bramer cited a report compiled by city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio that found the oldest repair request in the NYCHA backlog was one filed in the Woodside Houses from 2007. As of the date de Blasio’s report was released, the issue had been outstanding for 2,230 days.

In response, NYCHA communications officer Sheila Stainback sent a statement saying the agency had reduced the total number of work orders throughout the city and including ones in the Woodside Houses by 200,000 to less than 200,000 by July 1.

“The reduction is a result of NYCHA’s Action Plan to improve its efficiency in responding to maintenance and repair work orders; but as long there is any backlog work order, we still have work to do,” the statement said.

The agency said it is on target to eliminating the backlog by the end of 2013.

But officials in Woodside also questioned the quality of repairs done in addition to the time table.

“For many people here it has been years for their problems to be addressed, and when they are addressed, they are being addressed in a shoddy way,” Crowley said. “We are not asking for gold and silver doorknobs or toilet bowels. What they are asking for are toilets and sinks and tiling that work, that doesn’t fall apart.”

Van Bramer described the problems in the Woodside Houses as long waits of up to six to seven years for tile replacements, rat and roach infestation and rat holes leading into the development’s community center, which serves as the youth center.

He pointed out that the spot where parents are sending their children to be safe is infiltrated by rats..

Van Bramer said his office intervened on Ferguson’s behalf in 2011 to get repairs made to her ceiling and mold removed from the bathroom, but since then the problems seem to have returned.

The public advocate wrote a letter to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea, questioning the completion of more than 50,000 repairs at NYCHA housing developments in two weeks after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the backlog would be addressed.

“The information provided claims that as of Feb. 15, 2013, there were 369,090 repair requests remaining in NYCHA’s backlog — a dramatic reduction of more than 50,000 work order requests within just two weeks,” the letter reads.

De Blasio called on the chairman to respond to his request for details about all the repairs made by 5 p.m. Friday.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com or by phone at 718-260-4589.

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