Tenants Still Waiting for Judge to Approve NYCHA Mold Removal Settlement

Categories: Housing

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Cooper Park Houses in Brooklyn
In December, the New York City Housing Authority and lawyers representing its tenants reached a settlement intended to cut down the absurdly long wait time for basic repairs. One of the provisions required housing officials to respond to mold complaints within 15 days. Everybody agreed this was good news and we media folks wrote a little something about it. Then many of us moved on.

Three and half months later, after all, the agreement is still on, and the absurdly long wait time will eventually shorten. But the settlement is not yet official. A judge still has to approve it. The legal process is trudging along.

For tenants like Kima Lewis, an agreement between lawyers and city officials doesn't mean much as long as the mold remains on her wall.

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Here are Ten Terrifying New York Housing Stories to Mess Up Your Day

Image via The Worst Room
There are so many ways housing in New York can go wrong: a Craigslist scam, a crazed roommate, a radiator that screams like a jet engine without heating the apartment, or, best case scenario, just an enormous rat king that takes up residence beneath the stove. But no matter how bad you think you've got it, this Reddit thread of terrible apartment stories has something worse. There are wolf spiders and screaming junkies and cockroaches. Thousands and thousands of cockroaches.

There are dozens of stories on the thread so far, many of them involving vermin, poop, and various kinds of roommate mental instability. Here's a sampling. Let's start with the ones that are funny in an awful way and descend downwards, ending with the the stories that make us retch with despair and our souls long to leave our bodies. Gird yourselves:

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NYCHA Reduces Maintenance Backlog to 106K Work Orders, Almost Reaching 2013 Goal

Categories: Housing

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Queensbridge Houses
In March, the New York City Housing Authority had a maintenance backlog of about 350,000 pending work orders from residents. Officials held a press conference to announce a goal: get the backlog down to about 100,000 by the end of the year.

Given that the agency receives 50,000 new repair requests a week, it seemed a daunting, possibly unfeasible task.

But on Thursday, NYCHA claimed that it got damn close: as of January 1, it had 106,000 open work orders.

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NYCHA Mold Removal Settlement Has Wide Scope Thanks to High Asthma Rate

Categories: Housing

Wikimedia Commons
Frederick Douglass Houses in Manhattan.
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.

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.

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New York Post: City Government Is "Too Generous" With Homeless Families

Image via Google Maps
The Auburn Family Residence, the shelter described in the NYT series.
Is the latest New York Post editorial a parody of a New York Post editorial? Written by an angry libertarian teenager who doesn't understand why poor people can't "just get a job," like the afternoon gig he's got at Wingstop that helps pay for his Xbox games? That's seemingly the only way to parse this demented masterpiece, written in response to the New York Times's heartbreaking five-part series on the city's homeless families, "Invisible Children."

The NYT series focused on one 11-year-old girl, Dasani, who makes her home in Fort Greene's Auburn Family Residence, a falling-down shelter that houses nearly 300 other homeless children and their families. The series is a painstaking, precise look at how Dasani's family got there; her mother, Chanel, and stepfather, Supreme, are both unemployed drug addicts who struggle to provide for Dasani and her seven siblings. But the series also lays some serious blame with the city and the Bloomberg administration:

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The Castle Braid vs. Occupy Bushwick Fight Has Devolved Into a Highly Entertaining, Possibly Fake Twitter Brawl

Image via Google Maps.
Castle Braid's exterior at 114 Troutman Street in Bushwick
For months, there's been a battle raging in Bushwick between Castle Braid, a pricey condo building "custom-built to enable the artist," as their website puts it, and Occupy Bushwick, who accuse Castle Braid of failing to provide affordable housing, despite receiving a generous tax abatement that required them to do just that. OB also accuses Castle Braid of flooding the neighborhood with credit-card-wielding, barely post-college youngsters whose parents will offset the cost of the eyebrow-raising rents (between $1,700 and $2,200 for a one-bedroom, up to $3,300 for a three-bedroom). The local 99 percenters responded to Castle Braid's general existence by circling the property with police tape that read "Occupy" a few months back.

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Internet Privacy Groups Say Attorney General's Airbnb Subpoena is an Illegal "Fishing Expedition" for Information on Users

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Flickr/Phil Campbell
We can't stop thinking about sleeping in this weird Swedish trailer.
As you're likely aware by now, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is deeply unhappy with Airbnb, which allows you a quick, easy way to sleep in stranger's houses. Earlier this year, Airbnb helped a New York host named Nigel Warren win an appeal against a $2,400 fine from the city for hosting two Russian tourists. In October, Schneiderman's office subpoenaed the San Francisco-based company for data on all its New York users; in a statement to tech site CNET in November, Schneiderman explained that his office hoped to "collaborate" with Airbnb "recover millions of dollars in unpaid taxes, and to stop the abuse of Airbnb's site by operators of illegal hotels."

Instead, the company pushed back, launching a petition drive to try to change New York state law to allow homeowners to rent out their space more easily. On their blog, Airbnb's head of global public policy, David Hantman, vowed not to comply with the subpoena, calling it "unreasonably broad" and a "government-sponsored fishing expedition."

The company is now trying to quash the subpoena in Albany County Supreme Court, and two powerful internet privacy nonprofits have stepped in to help.

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A Surprise Million-Dollar Donation Kept Sandy Evacuees Living in Hotels From Becoming Homeless

Anna Merlan
Cherell Manuel, one of the Sandy evacuees at last week's press conference. "They act like we asked to be here," she said of city officials. "We're victims of a devastation."
Last Wednesday, the situation was dire: Three hundred people made homeless by Hurricane Sandy had been living in hotels for nearly a year when the city stepped in and said the program needed to end. The evacuees would need to move into homeless shelters, although many of them were just weeks from getting back into permanent housing. They had no desire to start over in the city's cramped, chaotic shelter system. At a press conference on the steps of City Hall organized by New York Communities for Change, several dozen of the evacuees said they weren't going anywhere and pleaded with the city for a little more time.

But there was no official response from the Bloomberg administration. Judith Goldiner, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, who have been working with the evacuees, felt despondent. Then, late Thursday, she got a surprising call. "I got word we had an anonymous donor of $1 million," she says. "It's crazy."

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New Brooklyn Heat Map Shows The Borough's Greenest Places to Live

Categories: Brooklyn, Housing

Courtesy of Rentenna
Last week Runnin' Scared reported that Rentenna, a housing market social media startup, released a "green heat map", a visual guide to rental units' proximity to farmer's markets, parks, and tree-lined streets. But that was just for Manhattan; the Brooklyn and Queens versions were still in the works. Sooner than expected, Rentenna has released the Brooklyn heatmap, showing exactly where in the borough potential renters might settle if access to green space and fresh produce are important to them.

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Facing Eviction Tomorrow, Hurricane Sandy Evacuees Living In Hotels Say They Won't Go Without a Fight

Anna Merlan
Cherell Manuel, one of 300 Sandy evacuees the city is trying to evict from her hotel
Since May, New York City officials have been trying to evict over 300 people from the hotels where they've been staying for nearly a year, after becoming homeless during Hurricane Sandy. The city says the hotel program has cost $73 million in FEMA funds so far and that now that FEMA has stopped reimbursing the city, they can't afford to shoulder the cost on their own. The Sandy evacuees will have to go into homeless shelters.

But at a press conference Friday on the steps of City Hall organized by New York Communities for Change, a couple dozen of those evacuees made it clear they weren't going anywhere without a fight. "They act like we asked to be here," says Cherell Manuel, 46, formerly of Far Rockaway. She and her four children have been at the Manhattan at Times Square Hotel for the past three months, their third hotel this year. "We're victims of a devastation."

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