Senator Chuck Schumer and Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson pushed for an $80 billion investment in infrastructure for public housing allocated from President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion American Jobs Plan during a press conference outside Oceanside Apartments, a 14-building New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) development in Far Rockaway, on Friday, July 23.
Alongside local elected officials, community and NYCHA resident leaders, Schumer and Anderson stressed that the administration’s proposed $40 billion investment for public housing nationwide was insufficient given that NYCHA’s repair backlog and deferred investment alone is an estimated $40 billion.
“Originally, no one was funding NYCHA,” the Senate majority leader explained. “I talked to Joe Biden. He put $40 billion for all public housing in his budget. I told Joe Biden, ‘That’s a good first step, but it ain’t enough. We want to double it to $80 billion, so NYCHA gets 40 billion.’ That will be enough money to fix the elevators, fix the sewage, fix the drains, get rid of the mold, fix the ceilings, fix the pipes and fix the generators.”
Anderson called the infrastructure bill a renewed opportunity to set aside funding for NYCHA to address issues like leaky roofs, mold, broken elevators, faulty heating systems and lead paint problems that have been plaguing the largest public housing authority in the nation for years.
“Our demand is to support working-class families, as we continue to make sure funding is available for NYCHA residents in the infrastructure bill,” Anderson said. “They’ve experienced mold, lack of heat and hot water, and other basic necessities that make it difficult to live here. For the 6,000 people who live here, it’s been super, super difficult for them to share a space here in this development and across the peninsula. That’s why this call is so urgent.”
NYCHA is home to over 360,000 low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. The largest landlord in New York City is responsible for maintaining 169,820 public housing apartments across 302 individual housing developments. Because of the aging infrastructure, cuts in federal and state funding, and financial mismanagement, many of the 2,252 residential buildings are deteriorating.
NYCHA resident leader for Oceanside Apartments Doris McLaughlin said the lack of maintenance was a disservice to NYCHA residents, which include families, seniors and veterans.
She demanded the resident council presidents be part of the oversight committee because of the mismanagement of funding.
“Our quality of life has diminished due to many factors, but the most important being the mismanagement of funding,” McLaughlin said. “We need to ensure that these funds are used for the purpose in which they are needed by and for NYCHA residents as well as the properties.”
Before the press conference and rally, the elected officials and community representatives toured two apartments in desperate need of repairs.
NYCHA resident Clara Caesar pointed to the ceiling in her bedroom, which had caved in a week ago.
“Two sheets came down last Friday while I was in my bed,” said Clara Caesar, who explained that the sheets of plaster began hanging from the ceiling in 2020.
Caesar put in a repair ticket and was told that someone “would take care of it.”
“It’s been a year. Now it decided to fall down. When I called [NYCHA], and I told them it came down, they said, ‘Oh, I must call to put in another ticket.’ They didn’t even ask me if anybody was hurt, any kids in the house, nothing,” she said.
Caesar said that even though the repair qualifies as a “24-hour” ticket, NYCHA maintenance had yet to show up.
Another longtime Oceanside Apartments resident, Phillip Gallop, pointed out a variety of health and safety issues in his apartment.
The paint next to the stove is peeling from the wall, and he isn’t sure whether it contains lead or not because he received contradicting results after the test.
“The immediate check told me that it could possibly be lead, and then I got a letter saying that it wasn’t. So, I don’t know one way or the other,” Gallop said.
The issues in Gallop’s bathroom are numerous.
Besides the bathroom window that still doesn’t function properly even though maintenance recently repaired it, sewage is coming up the drain when he takes a shower.
“And if I’m not taking a shower, when I’m here, I get an immediate notice because it’s just starting to gurgle, and it smells like sewage. For years I have asked them to fix this,” said Gallop, adding that maintenance has tried to resolve the issue with a plumbing snake.
“But why use the snake when nothing is blocking it, and the sewage comes up?” Gallop asked.
Gallop added that while the bathroom looks like it is free of mold, the harmful fungus has left traces on the wall panel even after it was cleaned with bleach, and NYCHA refuses to change the panel.
Anne Howard, another Oceanside Apartment resident who attended the press conference and rally, said she also has mold in her bedroom and bathroom. She recalled that maintenance was on top of repairs when she moved to the development decades ago with her young children, who are now in their fifties.
“You had to get up early because, at eight o’clock, they were knocking on your door to fix stuff, but not now. Now you might have to wait days or I don’t know how long before you get something fixed,” Howard said.
Ciro, who lives in Carleton Manor, another NYCHA development on the peninsula, shared that he has issues with water leaks, mold and silica, a substance found in sand and stone that is also a lung cancer-causing agent.
He said he put in 25 repair tickets to address the problems and even hired a 501(c)(3) attorney. Yet, NYCHA dismissed the tickets, claiming they were unable to access his apartment.
“They know what hours I work. I was on the resident council. They know where I’m at, and I’m not hard to find,” said Ciro, who is a mold remediation specialist.
Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers noted that the government was quick to find resources to bail out billionaires and major industries.
“It is time that we bail out our families,” Brooks-Powers said. “We need to invest in our infrastructure. It is fiscally irresponsible not to properly invest in NYCHA. We cannot continue to put a band-aid on the problem. To see the conditions our children are walking through, as a mother, it burns me. As a daughter, it burns me. We have to do more. And we have to demand more.”