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Local News August 22, 2013  RSS feed

POLS TO NYCHA: START WORKING

Say Authority Drags Feet On Repairs In L.I.C.
by Max Jaeger


City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer is joined by residents of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City to call on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to make repairs to the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House. The council member funded repairs more than three years ago, but NYCHA hasn’t done any of the work, he said. 
(photo: Max Jaeger) City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer is joined by residents of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City to call on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to make repairs to the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House. The council member funded repairs more than three years ago, but NYCHA hasn’t done any of the work, he said. (photo: Max Jaeger) The lights flicker, tile and plaster are cracked, and fixtures are stained with rust in the restrooms at the Jacob A. Riis Senior Center in Long Island City—and although local politicians have allocated money over the years to fix the New York City Housing Authority-run facilities, the condition remains.

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer held a press conference at the center—which serves the Queensbridge Houses—on Friday, Aug. 16, to demand that repairs be made.

Over the last three years, Van Bramer has allocated $300,000 to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to repair dilapidated restrooms and install air conditioning in a second-floor multi-use space.

But, none of the improvements have been made. NYCHA hasn’t even sent anyone to assess the issues said Van Bramer and officials from the Settlement House.

“They deserve better,” said Christopher Hanwey, Executive director of the Jacob A. Riis Settlement House.

A quarterly report released by NYCHA that covers April through June of this year shows that the air conditioner installation is in the design stages and indicates the project should be done in late November 2015.

Initially, Van Bramer allocated $135,000 for the project in 2011, he said, but NYCHA didn’t start the work. Instead, the authority later told him it under-estimated the cost, and Van Bramer allocated an additional $165,000 to the project this year,

Robert Madison, director of or senior services at Jacob A. Riis Senior Center, said many seniors are embarassed of the bathroom’s conditions.

Betty McCord, who is a member of the center, siad there are perpetual puddles on the floor, people have been pinched by loose toilet seats and on more than one ocasion, the doors to toilet paper dispensers have fallen open and hit seniors on the head.

To get to the the next closest restroom, which is in better condition than the first-floor lavatories, seniors have to take an elevator and a wheelchair lift on the second floor, Madison noted.

Van Bramer said he had a private meeting with NYCHA brass—including NYCHA Chairman John Rhea—six months ago, but the authority could not say when the council member’s allocation would be used to make repairs to the center.

Van Bramer said NYCHA officials told him that there arent enough designers or builders to handle the authority’s workload. In addition, the bidding process takes time, they told him.

“That’s a bunch of malarkey,” Van Bramer said.

Residents said they could take charge of their own repairs through government-mandated apprenticeship programs that require NYCHA and its contractors to provide job training, employment and contract opportunities to individuals living in public housing.

“We have young men and women that know how to put up sheet rock; that know how to paint,” said April Simpson-Taylor, president of the Queensbridge Tenants’ Association during the conference. “That is how you build community.”

“We cannot have people lose faith in the ability of NYCHA to complete projects, because there projects are necessary,” Van Bramer said. “It is an absolute outrage what they are doing with capital funding with respect to NYCHA developments.”

The news that residents will have to wait until 2015 for better bathrooms and an air conditioner stirred ire among residents and housing advocates, who said they are fed up with NYCHA’s slow response times.

Simpson-Taylor said the length of time residents have to wait for even minor repairs is “a disgrace,” becuase NYCHA residents are held to a double standard.

“If you’re a day late or a dollar short with your rent, your head is in housing court so fast that you will get whiplash,” she said.