NYCHA chair lends ear to residents

Shola Olatoye, new chair of the New York City Housing Authority, talks with Pelham Parkway Houses residents Lorainne Ritter and Wanda Hayes during visit to its senior center on Friday, May 16.
Photo by Jaime Williams

Residents of the Pelham Parkway Houses recently got a chance to give new New York City Housing Authority chair Shola Olatoye an earful.

Olatoye joined Senator Jeff Klein in visiting the Pelham Parkway houses, the Throggs Neck Houses, and the Sackwern Houses on Friday, May 16 to field residents questions and concerns.

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and Councilmember Ritchie Torres were there as well to speak with residents in the community room at the Pelham Parkway Senior Center.


“Pelham Parkway Houses play a very important role in the Pelham Parkway community,” Klein said. “If this doesn’t continue to be maintained the entire community will suffer.”

Catherine Walker, a resident for 60 years, said that the neighborhood and the buildings have definitely declined over the years.

“When I moved here it was beautiful,” she said.

Several other residents also complained about general disrepair and uncleanliness of the property.

Tenants association president Donna Stuart cited a combination not enough caretakers and ground technicians and tenants who are not respectful of where they live.

Resident Wanda Hayes called the wait times for repairs ridiculous, saying that she waited almost a year to get an appointment to fix a hole in her wall caused by repairs next door. When she had a scheduling conflict she never bothered to reschedule because it would take so long.

Olatoye urged residents to continue to use NYCHA’s Customer Contact Center to report needed repairs, because they can’t fix what they don’t know about. She said average wait time was down to 7 days.

“We are working to address those maintenance issues,” said Olatoye.

The complex is also waiting on a new boiler, and has been relying on a temporary replacement that works inconsistently.


Residents also complained about the long wait for security cameras two years after the murder of a senior. The funds were finally secured in late February, but the cameras have yet to arrive.

“We need the cameras,” said resident Naomi Diaz.

Tenant leader Stuart said she is confident NYCHA will come through with the cameras by mid-summer.


Olatoye and local politicians promised residents that change is coming to public housing.

“The last administration wasn’t doing their job as far as public housing was concerned,” said Klein. “This new commissioner, she’s here and she’s listening.”

Torres, chair of the committee on public housing, noted that $70 million was recently secured for public housing in the city budget.

“We finally have a government that cares about public housing,” he said.

“It’s an 80-year-old agency with significant financial challenges and significant operational challenges,” said Olatoye. “We know that.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at

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