A Harlem summer camp held in a NYCHA community center has been suspended due to stomach-churning conditions: Rotting rat corpses falling from the moldering drop ceiling, random showers of maggots, and cockroaches everywhere, according to NBC New York's investigative team.
"When we walked in on Monday, I was like, 'Oh my God, it just smells really bad in here,'" center director Ashia Broussard told NBC. "And then I started to feel nauseous, and then I just started throwing up."
Broussard added that none of the air conditioners were functional. "It's just constantly issue after issue," she continued, adding that NYCHA—which oversees the Jackie Robinson Houses, where the non-profit SCAN New York runs a day camp—keeps giving her "the runaround" when she requests repairs.
According to NYCHA, the agency did respond to complaints of maggots and bugs, and sent exterminators on Monday morning and afternoon, just under a week after staff canceled camp on July 16th. The ceiling has also been cleared of dead rats, but according to NBC, the center sits right next to the complex's trash compactor room, so the vermin just keep on coming. During the segment, a king-size rodent reportedly ran across the floor, prompting NYCHA to promise the outlet that it would send the exterminators back for a second round of sanitizing. But as one camper's parent put it, "The smell, the maggots falling from the ceiling—would you want your child to be in a situation like this?"
Rats of unfathomable proportions present a persistent problem at NYCHA developments citywide. Surely you have not forgotten the kitten-sized specimens that laid siege to the Claremont Houses in the Bronx last October: Years and years of neglect mean rodents, roaches, and other pests have become fixtures in city-subsidized housing. Last June, the city committed to spending $2.2 billion on desperately needed NYCHA repairs after a probe revealed that officials had been covering up glaring problems within public housing units, particularly lead paint.
That sum will be meted out over 10 years, though, and for many residents, change isn't coming quickly enough. Heading into last week's heat wave, for example, 49 NYCHA community centers—cooling centers where the city directs people to shelter from high temperatures—were without air conditioning.
In a statement, NYCHA's deputy press secretary, Michael Giardina, told Gothamist: "Upon learning about the unacceptable conditions of this center, NYCHA staff immediately brought in an exterminator, and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the space. We are working with the center's director to schedule follow up services and to address any persistent issues, so that the center can re-open for the community."
The agency will continue to monitor the situation, and has reportedly responded to two rat-related complaints at the site within the past six months. The camp is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, but reservations remain. SCAN had not responded to Gothamist's request for comment at time of publication.
Correction: An earlier image showed a different center, Head Start, also located in the building. It has now been updated.