Public Housing Residents From Harlem To Hollis March To NYCHA Over Slum Conditions

Dozens of residents of Holmes Towers and Stanley Isaacs Houses filed a group Housing Part action today demanding NYCHA fix the broken elevators, vermin infestations, lack of heat and hot water, broken intercoms and other issues facing residents. Represented by counsel from Take Root Justice, resident leaders of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition, together with supporters from the Justice Center en El Barrio and the Office of City Councilmember Ben Kallos, rallied outside 111 Centre Street as they filed their case in court, before marching over to NYCHA’s headquarters at 250 Broadway to serve the Housing Authority with an “early holiday present.” Residents presented NYCHA with festively-decorated “holiday gifts,” stuffed with grim images of long-neglected repairs and residents’ testimonies about herds of oversized rats and hours stuck in stopped elevators, along with the legal paperwork demanding that NYCHA fulfill its responsibility to residents.

In addition to demanding repairs, residents involved in this lawsuit have actively demanded full public funding for NYCHA, in the face of a reported $32 billion shortfall for repairs, maintenance and capital improvements. At an October march to Gracie Mansion, over one hundred residents and allies demanded “repairs without privatization” in NYCHA. NYCHA has recently proposed privatization-based initiatives to address its budget shortfall, including the construction of infill luxury towers and conversion to private property management companies (“RAD”). Residents argue that these initiatives jeopardize the long-term affordability of their homes, while barely making a dent in NYCHA’s steep budget crisis.

“This HP lawsuit is not just for us, it is for every NYCHA stakeholder that has gone without timely repairs and is living in hazardous conditions due to the decades of neglect from the largest landlord in New York City,” said Holmes-Isaacs Coalition co-founder Saundrea Coleman. “Our hope is that we will finally receive humane living environments within our campuses. We want to inform NYCHA residents citywide that they, too, can take this type of action to obtain safer homes without the threat of privatization to get these critical situations met. Healthy housing is a human right that is why he have taken up this fight.”

“I have lived in NYCHA for 46 years. I have seen plenty of problems, but worst of all I have seen the decline in the overall upkeep of my development,” said La Keesha Taylor, co-founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition. People had to sue to get into this development at one time, but the disinvestment by the government has led to this state of crisis. We are living in squalid conditions while seeing ridiculous promises of repairs through private partnerships such as RAD, PACT or infill! These programs won’t deliver true funds to fix much-needed repairs. NYCHA needs to truly clean house and listens to the tenants as we are the ones suffering.”

“Everyone deserves to live with dignity. No one should come home, at the end of a long workday, to herds of rats or constantly-broken elevators or no water to shower with,” said Karla Reyes, an organizer with the Justice Center en el Barrio. “Privatization is lose-lose: it puts residents’ homes at risk and doesn’t even solve the problem. We need full funding for public housing now, so residents can get the repairs they deserve.”

“Every week, my office responds to calls from NYCHA tenants seeking assistance with repairs for broken elevators, vermin infestations, lack of heat and hot water and broken intercoms. It is unacceptable that anyone is made to live in these conditions, and that residents often file multiple work order requests for the same issue without ever receiving a response from NYCHA. I stand in solidarity with the residents of Holmes and Stanley Isaacs Houses, tenant leaders and community groups who are fighting for necessary repairs in public housing without privatization. NYCHA tenants are not asking for special treatment, they are simply asking to be treated with respect,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12).

“During what should be a joyous holiday season, too many of our neighbors who live in NYCHA residences are facing non-working elevators, lack of heat and hot water and general disrepair in their buildings. I fully support these residents’ efforts to stand up and demand their developments be repaired. Federally, I’ve authored legislation that would invest $70 billion in the public housing capital fund, so NYCHA would have resources it needs to make repairs in a more timely fashion. I’ll continue promoting this bill in Congress, while working in NYC to empower NYCHA residents and hold the agency accountable,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-7).

NYCHA is abandoning its responsibilities to the residents of Holmes Towers and Stanley Isaacs Houses,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “These residents are being subjected to vermin infestation, lack of heat and broken equipment throughout the buildings, making their lives more difficult and less safe. If this were any other landlord in the City of New York, it would not be tolerated. I stand with the residents of Holmes Towers and Stanley Isaacs Houses who are filing this action and demanding that NYCHA fulfill the responsibilities it owes these residents.”



“Residents have a very simple request: to receive the same level of basic repairs and services that any other tenant in the city is entitled to, without having to let a developer turn their playground into an enormous apartment tower,” said Michael Leonard, senior staff attorney at TakeRoot Justice. “The Holmes-Isaacs Coalition showed NYCHA residents’ power when they fought off NYCHA’s infill plan, and they’re showing it again today.”

In June, following protests by the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition and the Justice Center en El Barrio, with legal support from TakeRoot Justice, NYCHA withdrew its Section 18 land disposition application that would have allowed Fetner Properties to build a fifty-story luxury infill tower on top of the Holmes Towers playground. The Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also filed a lawsuit against the Holmes Towers infill, and the suit was ruled moot in court last week.

The Holmes-Isaacs Coalition was formed to combat the public housing crisis that has plagued all of NYCHA campuses, and fights for adequate funding and timely repairs for all NYCHA residents.

The Justice Center en el Barrio is a hub for social justice and community organization, committed to building the people’s movements. It supports organizing against racism, war, skyrocketing rents, gentrification, and abuses on the job.

TakeRoot Justice provides legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community groups in New York City to support community-based partners to dismantle racial, economic and social oppression.

Photo credit: NYCHA via Wikipedia.

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