Insect and vermin infestations. Leaky ceilings. Families poisoned by lead paint. Mold and broken elevators. These are just some of the ongoing grievances over a half of a million New Yorkers in public housing complexes are living with every day.

In June, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY announced a legal settlement with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), in which NYCHA took responsibility for filing false reports on lead paint testing, for failing to follow numerous federal laws and for failing to provide adequate heat and mold removal. (The city admitted last month that 1,160 children living in NYCHA have tested positive for lead poisoning since 2012.)

Listen to WNYC's Cindy Rodriguez discuss the NYCHA tenants's difficult living conditions and the proposed $2.2 billion settlement from the city:

In an attempt to make up for years of neglect, the city proposed a consent decree and offered to pay a $2.2 billion settlement in capital funds to spend during a four-year period. Another stipulation in the consent decree (PDF) would be the appointment of a monitor to oversee NYCHA.

All residents were notified about the settlement hearing, scheduled for September 26th, and invited to attend Manhattan Federal Court Judge William Pauley 's courtroom to give their thoughts on the plan.

Since the invitations were sent, tenants have submitted over 700 letters that included photographs of deplorable living conditions, medical records, unresolved work tickets and decades of unthinkable anecdotes to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s office as testimonials to the unbearable situation.

A large majority of the correspondence detailed years of neglect families endured while others objected to the possible settlement and even offered some solutions.

Daniel Barber, president of the tenants’ association at the Jackson Houses in the Bronx, submitted a letter on behalf of all the residents across the city objecting to the consent decree.

“The Decree offers no real plan for making sweeping changes to the system. No one is losing their jobs, being demoted, being disciplined, or being criminally charged (so far), which is a slap in the face to all residents,” Barber wrote.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat looks at a peeling ceiling and mold at a NYCHA apartment in July 2018 (Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock)

Barber and several others suggested that NYCHA tenants should choose one of their own neighbors to serve as the appointed monitor. A motion was submitted on behalf of the tenants to intervene in the proceedings and have their voices heard on the consent decree; currently the government is representing the tenants.

“There’s a lot of people suffering,” said NYCHA tenant Oliver Briscoe, who will attend the hearing to ask that the money should get distributed to the tenants for the damages they endured because of the lack of repairs.

Briscoe, 66, suffered a spinal injury when he slipped and fell into an unexpected puddle of water outside his Lower East Side first-floor apartment in 2014. “I can’t get out my apartment without stepping over a puddle. I put in 35 tickets and they haven’t sent anyone to the roof to stop the leak,” said Briscoe.

Anita Berry, of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, told Gothamist she was laughed at by staff when she moved into her two-bedroom apartment almost five years ago.

“Before I even touched the keys, they had me living in inhumane living conditions,” said Berry.

The flat that she shares with her son has several holes in the ceiling and is riddled with rats, roaches, mildew and mold, which she said disturbs her asthma.

“These things were supposed to be fixed before I moved into the apartment and they didn’t,” said Berry, who is also disabled.

Berry, 50, said she contacted the management company and several elected officials, but has not received any answers as to why her apartment remains under construction.

A cat runs by a damaged floor in a NYCHA apartment (Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock)

“I’ll be there (at the hearing) to speak to find out how I should be compensated. It’s not right—if I didn’t pay my rent I would get kicked out the door, they did this to me and I don’t get compensated?” asked Berry.

Karen Blondel of the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn also agrees that the funds should serve as a compensation fund for residents, but understands that the buildings need new roofs, new pipes and new facades.

“That number is a punitive amount...The physical number for the repairs in NYCHA is $32 billion so $2.2 billion is well under. I have an engineering background and understand to bring up these buildings will take more time, thought and money,” said Blondel, 55.

Blondel was not exempt from her own ordeals with unfinished repairs in her apartment when a plumbing issue turned into asbestos removal and put her health in danger, she said.

“Went through a year of hell with them last year...They said the plumber was coming, but asbestos removal people came first and removed it with me right there, didn’t offer me a mask or anything," said Blondel.

Blondel will be heard to not only ask that tenants receive individual compensation, but also recommend training on preventative management. “Without self-management training, the money will get wiped out quickly,” said Blondel.

On Thursday, Judge Pauley ruled that tenants cannot have a say in the settlement, which would have meant potentially renegotiating the deal between the federal prosecutors and NYCHA. Tenants can, however, still oppose the deal if they wish.

Applications are still being accepted for the monitor position.

Christina Carrega is a Brooklyn native who dedicated her journalism career to telling stories surrounding the criminal justice system. When Christina's not reporting hard news, she writes for a lifestyle website she co-founded called and enjoys traveling.