After a fire tore through a NYCHA senior complex in Flatbush this summer, tenants appealed to the city for help cleaning the smoke-ravaged building. But the agency ignored those pleas, forcing elderly residents to live among soot and grime, while breathing in potentially dangerous fumes for nearly two months.
The grim conditions at the Reid Apartments were brought to light on Wednesday by State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who called out the agency on social media while touring the senior home.
"NYCHA has done nothing to remediate," he wrote, referring to the fire that took place on August 7th. "I have the smell of the fire in my nostrils as I write this. I am outraged. Who knows what our seniors have been breathing in for 7 [weeks.]"
Photos and videos posted online showed hallway blackened by soot, fire-damaged ceilings and exposed piping. Tenants said they had been asking their landlord for help abating the issues for weeks, without any response.
"Nobody should be living in these conditions. If you do not give us a satisfactory response in 24 hours, you will have hell to pay from me and the tenants of this building," Myrie threatened.
The ultimatum evidently worked. On Thursday, the agency sent crews to wash, repair and paint the damaged space.
"We are looking into the delays and will take appropriate action," a spokesperson told Gothamist in a statement. "NYCHA is working hard to address these kinds of challenges, and to change the way we do business."
The Housing Authority is currently under an independent monitor, the result of an arrangement reached with the federal government earlier this year. In a report issued this summer, the appointed monitor Bart Schwartz wrote that his first few months of work had "revealed NYCHA as an organization fraught with serious problems in structure, culture, and direction, and perhaps even worse."
Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed new NYCHA chair Gregory Russ in June, who quickly raised eyebrows for his $402,628 salary and desire to travel home to Minnesota every weekend.
Following the clean-up effort on Thursday, Myrie told Gothamist that the length of time it took to get the issue fixed was "unconscionable."
"After living through the trauma of that fire, they've had to live among soot and god knows what chemicals for almost two months, waiting for NYCHA to help with repairs," he added. "It should not take an elected official to get NYCHA to prioritize the safety of their tenants. It is their job."