NYCHA Tenants Displaced after Contractor Missteps

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The summer of 2010 has been marked by a series of weeklong heat waves. After one recent heat waves when temperatures rose above 100 degrees for consecutive days, a rainstorm was welcome relief.
There was no relief for 6th—floor tenants living at 611 Blake Ave., also known as Unity Plaza, Building #26.
 On Tuesday, July 13, the tenant residing in  apartment 6K came home from work to find her apartment damaged by the rainstorm. Why? NYCHA had engaged the
services of a contractor who had been working to repair the roof since September 2009.
According to the tenant, the contractor started drilling on the roof in December. “I don’t know what they did, but yesterday it rained in my apartment. There is water damage everywhere,” she said.
 A visitor to the building was greeted by an acrid, moldy smell. Once on the 6th floor, emergency lighting dimly lit the hallways. There was no electricity in apartments. Tenants, visitors and NYCHA personnel had to navigate an obstacle course of buckets and bowls of dark yellow water, which dripped on everyone, even though it was no longer raining. There were puddles on the floors in the hallways and in the apartments. A brief tour of the roof revealed buckled—roof membranes and workers pumping water.
 The apartment 6K tenant gave a tour of her apartment the day after that rain. A large bowl in her sink was full of water waste. Her ceiling was still dripping. “It ruined everything,” she said. “All my food, stuff in my cabinets, my furniture, my TVs. Look. It’s still leaking.” Asked if she was at home when the leaking began, she said, “No, I was at work at the time. I came home to this disaster.”
 Council member Charles Barron and his wife, Assembly member Inez Barron, were onsite the entire day after the rain to assist tenants. Council member Barron said, “NYCHA hired an incompetent contractor who was supposed to lay a layer to prepare for the roof. They have been working on that since September. The rains came. He did not lay it well enough to make sure it protected the apartments from rain. It was raining in every apartment. Indoor rain. Worse yet, NYCHA leaves them. The electricity was still on.  There could have been an electrical fire because of the water. They didn’t call the fire department. I had to call the fire dept. to turn off the electricity. They didn’t relocate anybody. They left them in this crap, this dangerous, uninhabitable situation.  They left them all night. Some people had to pay out of their own pockets to stay in a hotel. Others made calls and stayed with their people. NYCHA just came today to assess the situation. Assess what? The fire department recommended the electricity be shut off until they dry everything and make sure the wires are dry.”
 Charles Barron said NYCHA should “Get the people out. Replace their property. Make sure they fire this contractor and get someone who can do this roof properly. You have flooded apartments. The electricity is turned off.
“Molding. A lot of children here have asthma. You abandon them, make them stay in this situation overnight. This is outrageous.”
In apartment 6B, water damage led to the ceiling peeling. Water came through the
ceiling fixtures. There were buckets to collect water in throughout apartment 6C. “Water came down on my bed,” said the tenant.
“I was sleeping, and it woke me up. I moved the bed, but the water was pouring out.” Her ceiling also had peeling. Water damaged her sofa and electronic equipment, including a 40—inch television.
Another tenant said, “You don’t know how it feels to be in a situation with no type  of assistance.”
 NYCHA eventually did evacuate tenants on the 6th floor, while the contractor is working on the roof and repairing apartments. 
 The issue now is damages. Council member Barron said tenants were instructed to meet directly with the contractor to negotiate losses. There are allegations the contractor is arbitrarily setting low estimates to replace damaged household items, including food, mattresses, electronic equipment and living room sofas. Barron feels NYCHA should have been present during meetings between the contractor and tenants. While some tenants settled, other tenants are upset because of what they are being offered, and complain that the contractor is not fairly assessing tenant claims.