Aug. 18, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A group of Queensbridge residents are suing the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for allegedly failing to mitigate hazardous living conditions like asbestos, mold, lead paint and more inside their apartments in the housing development.
Eleven tenants of the largest public housing development in North America filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Queens Housing Court to force NYCHA to fix the long-standing issues. They also want to be awarded an unspecified amount for damages, including attorneys’ fees.
The plaintiffs claim that the agency has failed to make urgent repairs despite countless work requests over several years.
The residents said they face issues like asbestos, lead paint, mold, vermin infestations, severe leaks, holes in their walls, overflowing trash piles in common areas, lack of heat and hot water during the winter and more.
One plaintiff, Pamela Wheeler, a 72-year-old resident of Queensbridge North, said she has been unable to fully use her kitchen sink since 2019 — despite multiple work requests to fix the leak and clogged drain. She also says she frequently loses heat during colder months forcing her to wear multiple layers of clothing inside.
Wheeler also said she has repeatedly asked NYCHA to address a mice infestation in her apartment to no avail.
“I decided to sue NYCHA because 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 trying to get any repairs in my apartment.”
Another tenant, plaintiff Marilyn Keller, said she has been dealing with toxic mold, vermin infestations, exposed electrical wiring, a broken radiator, rotted kitchen cabinets and a broken door frame that constantly jams.
The toxic mold and vermin are especially dangerous, she said, noting that she is a breast cancer survivor with chronic health issues.
Keller said she has been calling on NYCHA to make the necessary repairs for years—but the problems are never addressed.
“Any type of repairs that need to be done in my house; I have to wait forever to get them done,” she said. “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 work, but then they never come. They are a bunch of no-shows.”
The problems for Queensbridge residents, the plaintiffs argue, became even more hazardous during the COVID-19 pandemic when the statewide stay-at-home order forced them to remain at home in allegedly squalid conditions.
Furthermore, they allege, NYCHA failed to conduct regular cleanings of the common areas in accordance to COVID-19 regulations.
“NYCHA’s continued failure to address repairs has compromised the health and safety of many residents especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Robert Sanderman of Queens Legal Services.
He added that many Queensbridge residents are people of color and essential workers — two groups that have experienced greater health complications due to COVID-19.
The tenants allege that the agency’s pattern of neglect and failure to make repairs is an act of illegal harassment. They argue that it is a tactic being used to pressure them to abandon their homes.
“For too long, NYCHA residents have suffered uninhabitable conditions due to neglect and lack of funding,” Sanderman said. “Frustratingly, NYCHA tenants place numerous repair tickets and complaints but their pleas often fall on deaf ears.”
The residents said they hope their lawsuit will finally get the agency to make the long-needed repairs.
A spokesperson for NYCHA didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Today we filed a collective lawsuit against #NYCHA for failure to make repairs on behalf of a dozen #Queensbridge Residents. NYCHA has been grossly negligent in securing the dignified living of tenants & have breached the warranty of habitability. It’s time to make the repairs. pic.twitter.com/YnPqT9BBJH
— Dannelly Rodriguez (@DR0DRIGUEZ) August 17, 2021