Last night, at the invitation of the Rev. Al Sharpton, five Democrats running for mayor—Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and former Congressman Anthony Weiner—stayed in apartments at the Lincoln Houses, an upper Manhattan NYC Housing Authority complex. Welcomed to live beside residents, the candidates brought sleeping bags to sleep on couches or air mattress in homes with festering mold, no air conditioning, and partly gutted kitchens. They stayed with a host family, and took a tour of the complex to get a first-hand look at issues affecting lives of public housing residents, including mold on the ceiling and holes in the walls. When they emerged this morning, the candidates were aghast at the conditions.
Many apartments are in a state of ill repair (responses can take way too long, even for serious issues like bed bugs). De Blasio noted how his host's kitchen cabinets were ruined in 2011 and were only removed last month (and are just sitting on her floor), "In our house, when something’s broke, repairs get made right away. You don’t have to worry about broken door locks, urine in the hallways. Here in Lincoln Houses, Mrs. Wilson had to wait 2 and a half years for a repair that’s really hurt the health of her family."
Weiner's host said her air-conditioner only worked sometimes—and it didn't yesterday, so he had difficulty sleeping. Thompson stayed in an un-air-conditioned home, and said, "I think that what is going on has been disgraceful. There are hundreds of millions of dollars that have not been used for repairs, have not been used for upgrades, have not been used to fix elevators, and that will change January 1st."
Quinn stayed with a family of immigrants from Mali and noted there was black mold in their bathroom which seemed to be spreading, "They're very soon, I would argue, going to have the same kind of black mold right over where they prepare their food. One of the worst parts... is there is no real sense at all of when this is going to get fixed for them." She also told her hosts that she'd contact the head of the NYCHA.
Liu spent the evening meeting with residents of the Lincoln Houses. He found vermin in elevators, the lobby and hallways but noted his host's home was "impeccably neat." He told reporters this morning, "We have to remember that these neighbors are people, people who are very proud of what they’ve done, what they’ve accomplished in their lives and that they deserve the same kinds of services that anybody else in this city gets."
— John C. Liu (@JohnLiu2013) July 21, 2013
The National Action Network, Urban Justice Center and Community Voices organized the sleepover event. Sharpton—who invited other candidates like Sal Albanese and John Catsimatidis (who declined/weren't able to come)—said, "The facts need to be brought out, because a lot of New Yorkers don't understand these conditions. Just one night will not solve any of the problems, but one night will take the issue out of the margins."