Residents, electeds demand repairs at NYCHA’s Bushwick Houses development

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Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez, center, speaks during a press conference outside of NYCHA’s Bushwick Houses development on May 13.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Leaks, missing floor tiles, walls left unfinished and rat infestations were just some of the complaints lodged against the New York City Housing Authority, as residents and local politicians blasted the city agency for continuously failing to address structural repairs in the Bushwick Houses development.

Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez gathered with Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and Assemblymember Maritza Davila outside of 24 Humboldt St. on Friday morning, May 13 to advocate for residents whose apartments are left in disrepair from storm damage caused by Hurricane Ida last September.

“We are calling on NYCHA to do what is absolutely long overdue,” said Gutierrez, who represents Williamsburg, Bushwick and parts of Ridgewood in the Council, while standing next to photos of apartments with leaks and missing cabinets. “We’re here to demand dignified housing for every single tenant.”

Maria Davila, a resident of 24 Humboldt Street for 15 years, testified that for over a year, she’s dealt with a leak in her kitchen, living room and the bedroom of her son.

“I’ve never lived in a situation this poor,” Davila said in Spanish.

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Joshua Torres stands in his bedroom in front of the unfinished walls left by NYCHA.Photo by Caroline Ourso

Davila’s son, Joshua Torres, sleeps with his bed at an angle so as to avoid any surprise leaks from the ceiling of his bedroom.

“Sometimes I wake up at night and step out of bed into a puddle,” said Torres while standing in front of his obviously water-damaged bedroom wall.

Davila told press she has submitted more than 100 repair request tickets for her current apartment. She often goes to Home Depot herself because she gets tired of waiting for repairs to be made. She even bought her own refrigerator.

Georgino Moreno, another 15-year resident of 24 Humboldt Street, went to court with NYCHA over the disrepair of the bathroom walls in his unit. Moreno said NYCHA was given 35 days by the court to make the necessary repairs but did not make the deadline.

“Then, there was a major leak in my living room,” said Moreno in Spanish. “I lost all of my furniture.”

While the leak was fixed as of March 25, Moreno still has no tiles on the floor of his apartment and believes he has a rat infestation due to the slowness of repairs by NYCHA.

“NYCHA is the worst landlord in New York City,” said Reynoso with palpable vitriol. “The city has no problem … calling out other landlords for repairs that aren’t happening, but when they do it, it’s a different standard because NYCHA tenants aren’t as important as other tenants in this city — that is the message we are sending.”

“These repairs should happen in a timely fashion,” he continued. “Tickets should be open and stay open until they are actually closed.”

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Residents watch NYCHA workers remove cabinets from their building during a press conference outside of the Bushwick Houses development. Photo by Caroline Ourso

Assemblymember Maritza Davila, whose district also includes the Bushwick Houses, told those in attendance Friday that this particular development is on state politicians’ radars.

“We are negotiating a plan with NYCHA in conjunction with the federal government, and Bushwick Houses is first on the list to get repairs,” she said to applause from the crowd.

But Gutierrez seemed wary of this being promising news.

“We continue to have our federal, our state and even our city government invest in NYCHA in these big proposals, and the tenant gets lost in these proposals,” said Gutierrez. “How are they being held accountable?”

“It cannot be that every time there is a broken elevator, a leak in an apartment, that all of these elected officials have to call NYCHA and demand that they show up,” she continued.

“If we were to walk every single NYCHA development in Brooklyn, we would see a common trait,” said Reynoso. “These symptoms are not only at one building. This is happening throughout the system.”

As the Brooklyn Paper prepared to tour the Humboldt Street complex, an alarm sounded from the building. One of the elevators had stopped working, and a resident was stuck somewhere inside.

Resident Maria Davila, front right, gives her testimony during a press conference outside of NYCHA’s Bushwick Houses development. Photo by Caroline Ourso

When asked for comment on the conditions, a NYCHA rep maintained that work is being done to address residents’ concerns.

“NYCHA staff and plumbers have been working to address these leaks, and will continue to identify and repair these lines until all work is completed,” NYCHA Chief Communications Officer Barbara Brancaccio said in a statement. “Our dedicated staff works 24/7 to address issues caused by crumbling infrastructure due to decades of disinvestment.”

“Plumbers made repairs to at least five leaks on the H and I kitchen riser lines and stack stoppages on March 22 and to the roof drain on the F line on April 4, and we have been working continuously to make repairs to the D line,” Brancaccio continued. “This week, we are making scheduled repairs on the waste line on the F and G lines. Once all the leaks are repaired, NYCHA staff will expedite and coordinate all plastering, painting and carpentry work needed in affected units.”

The state’s low-income public housing arm is home to roughly one in 15 New Yorkers across over 177,000 apartments within 335 housing developments, according to the most recently available NYCHA fact sheet. The largest public housing authority in North America, the authority was created in 1935 to provide decent, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

Additional reporting by Meaghan McGoldrick