The housing authority is in “systemic noncompliance” with a court-ordered agreement to clean up the toxic mold that infests so many aging apartments, attorneys for tenants say.
A year ago NYCHA entered into a federal consent decree, promising to abate mold in hundreds of apartments where tenants with asthma live to avoid a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On March 6, lawyers for the tenants, housing advocates and churches who filed the suit wrote to Manhattan Federal Judge William Pauley III, stating, “Interviews with tenants have revealed a pervasive failure on the part of NYCHA to live up to the requirements of the order.”
Lawyers for the National Center for Law & Economic Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the law firm Hogan Lovells plan to file a motion to enforce the settlement.
“NYCHA is trying to look for ways to get away from the reality of the agreement,” said Rev. Getulio Cruz Jr., pastor of Monte Sion Christian Church in the East Village. “They’re reinterpreting things different from the ways we agreed to.”
Tenants say NYCHA’s abatement has so far been useless, with NYCHA crews showing up to wipe down mold, only to have it return weeks later. Mold is usually caused by water leaks behind walls or ceilings and returns if the leak isn’t fixed.
In some cases NYCHA told tenants to take showers with the door open or insisted the mold wasn’t really mold, the lawyers told Judge Pauley.
“They say they’re going to do something but they’re not doing it,” Cruz said. “They’re not really looking at this as being urgent.”
Tenant Vermelle Pleasant, 47, has experienced the NYCHA mold shuffle.
“Then somebody came and painted,” Pleasant told the Daily News on Friday. “Then another time some workers had came and cleaned it. They didn’t paint it. It kept coming back. It always comes back.”
The lawyers say NYCHA has failed to complete repairs within the deadline they agreed to. They’ve been late with their reports and they use indecipherable codes such as “verified” and “Resolved through Trial” to describe their activity in apartments.
On Friday NYCHA attorney Donna Murphy wrote to the judge, insisting that the tenants have made a “misinterpretion” of the agreement and insisting that the authority had “met or exceeded service level requirements.”