In December, the New York City Housing Authority and lawyers representing its tenants reached a settlement intended to cut down the absurdly long wait time for basic repairs. One of the provisions required housing officials to respond to mold complaints within 15 days. Everybody agreed this was good news and we media folks wrote a little something about it. Then many of us moved on.
Three and half months later, after all, the agreement is still on, and the absurdly long wait time will eventually shorten. But the settlement is not yet official. A judge still has to approve it. The legal process is trudging along.
For tenants like Kima Lewis, an agreement between lawyers and city officials doesn’t mean much as long as the mold remains on her wall.
Lewis has lived at the Cooper Park houses in Greenpoint since 2010.
“My walls began to peel and bubble out and crumble all over the apartment around early 2012,” she says.
She reported the problem to maintenance, and “by middle of 2013 they finally realized it was mold growing behind the walls.”
Maintenance workers removed the mold they saw. Over the next several months, though, the walls kept peeling, revealing more mold. Lewis thinks its black mold. It’s still on her walls.
Under the mold removal settlement, NYCHA must not only remove the mold within 15 days, but also identify and fix whatever caused it. Housing workers must then return to the apartment in 60 days for a follow-up inspection to make sure the mold is still gone.
The agreement requires that the housing authority recognize that tenants with asthma qualify for protections under the Americans with Disabilities Acts, meaning housing officials have a legal obligation to ensure that those residents do not live in a moldy apartment. Lawyers for the tenants had sued NYCHA for violating the act by allowing residents with asthma to live with mold, which worsened the symptoms of their condition.
There was a hearing about the settlement in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, as the agreement moves closer to enactment.
“It may require one hearing and then we expect the judge to approve the settlement,” says Grant Lindsay, the lead organizer of East Brooklyn Congregations, one of the community groups that helped organize the settlement. “Then tenants will have an important tool to get the mold off their bathroom ceilings or out of the closets. ”
For now, though, stories of moldy apartments are “still very, very, very, very common,” says Lindsay.