The absurdly long wait time for basic repairs has seemed to become just another unfortunate but standard inconvenience of living in public housing. Leaking ceilings, broken door locks, dead light sockets: A resident calls to report something in need of fixing and winds up facing a yearlong wait. The maintenance backlog has reached as high as 350,000.
|Frederick Douglass Houses in Manhattan.|
Not enough materials and workers to speed things up, New York City Housing Authority has said. Though there have been lawsuits filed and news articles written, a solution seemed, at best, far off, or perhaps just unfeasible in this time of budgets cuts and deep needs throughout the public sector. In a city where demand for public housing units far exceeds supply, the 400,000 or so residents across the five boroughs can do little more than live with the damage and wait -- placing a bucket under a drip, buying a hot plate to replace a busted stove.
On Tuesday, thousands of those residents got some power. NYCHA and lawyers representing public housing tenants agreed to a settlement that required the housing authority to respond to mold complaints within 15 days. A federal court will oversee the terms for up to three years. But perhaps most importantly, NYCHA must recognize that tenants with asthma qualify for protections under the Americans with Disabilities Acts, meaning housing officials have a legal obligation to ensure that those residents do not live in a moldy apartment.
This is quite a wide scope. According to a 2009 study by the city's Department of Health, nearly a quarter of children living in the city's public housing system suffer from asthma -- around 10 percent higher than the asthma rate among all NYC children. More »