A lawsuit and settlement agreement filed in federal court will force NYCHA to swiftly remove mold from public housing units. Previously the housing authority had painted over or bleached moldy walls, which caused residents with asthma and other respiratory ailments to suffer difficulty breathing, wheezing, hospitalization, and a proliferation of cockroaches and other vermin in their apartments. Now, under the review of a federal judge, NYCHA must remove mold from afflicted units in 15 days or less, and has to maintain these response times 95% of the time for at least three years. Previously NYCHA took months or even years to remove mold.

The mayor's office has also agreed to a pilot program to use electronic moisture monitors to address future issues without "eyeballing it," as has been NYCHA's practice in the past.

The lawsuit and settlement agreement were filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice on behalf of the nonprofit community organizations Manhattan Together and South Bronx Churches. The groups claimed that the recurring mold issues in public housing where residents live with asthma represented a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Low-income communities traditionally have higher rates of asthma than other neighborhoods, and blacks have three times the risk of dying from asthma and its complications than whites.

"Because of the mold in my apartment, I have more trouble breathing at home than I do outside,” 43-year-old Maribel Baez, a resident of the Melrose houses in the South Bronx, says in a release. “Home should be a place where you are safe, not a place that hurts you."