Torres and NYCHA residents announce new law for mold removal

Congressman-Elect Ritchie Torres was joined by NYCHA residents, MetroIAF and South Bronx Churches to announce the details of a new law passed by the City Council that will help tenants understand their rights to mold removal in their apartments, and help accelerate repair work in NYCHA developments.
Photos by Jason Cohen

Mold and leaks have plagued NYCHA buildings for decades, but now finally something is being done to fix it.

On Dec. 11, Congressman-Elect Ritchie Torres was joined by NYCHA residents, MetroIAF and South Bronx Churches at the NYCHA Morris Houses, Washington Ave. and E. 169 St., to announce the details of a new law passed by the City Council that will help tenants understand their rights to mold removal in their apartments and help accelerate repair work in NYCHA developments.

The legislation will require the city to send NYCHA residents information about the new Ombudsman Call Center (OCC), which tenants can call to report mold issues and outstanding repair work. The OCC has been successful in helping over 4,100 NYCHA families get mold and leak repairs done.

Torres, who grew up in a NYCHA building, and stressed this issue, is quite personal.

“I know what it’s like to be repeatedly hospitalized by asthma attacks that were triggered by my living conditions,” Torres commented.

The councilman explained that complaints to NYCHA often go unheeded and even if they “fix” the problem, it returns within weeks.

Now with his new legislation and the help of the OCC people can finally feel healthy in their homes, he stressed. While more than 4,000 people have taken advantage of it so far, he hopes more contact them for assistance.

“The Housing Authority cannot be trusted to effectively remove mold,” he stressed. “We’re to inform NYCHA residents that there is a process in place for holding NYCHA accountable for removing mold from your home. We’re here to send a crystal clear message that every resident deserves safe affordable housing.”

Torres expressed gratitude to Metro IAF and South Bronx Churches for their help in creating the OCC. Rev. Bert Bennett of St. David Episcopal Church, 384 E 160th St., spoke as a representative of the South Bronx Churches.

Rev. Bert Bennett of St. David Episcopal Church

According to Bennett, there are still thousands of people who do not know the OCC exists and are living in horrid conditions.

“They are stuck with the typical NYCHA culture of painting over mold or just ignoring it all together,” he stated.

One person who has taken advantage of the new program is Bernard Smith, a resident of the Morris Houses. He has lived in public housing for nearly 35 years and the conditions have gradually gotten worse.

In March, he called NYCHA about plaster falling off the wall in his bathroom and nothing took place. Then people came to the apartment and told him there was a leak. After removing everything from the bathroom, NYCHA officials returned and told Smith they had the wrong apartment.

He was shell shocked.

Smith soon learned about OCC and called them in September. By October, his bathroom was completely fixed. He noted that most of his neighbors do not know about the OCC.

“I recommend everyone call the OCC if they have a mold or leak problem,” he said.

Bernard Smith, a resident of the Morris Houses

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