Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is expected to visit NYCHA housing developments “within the next month or so,” the agency’s regional director said on Monday.
The news of the visit comes as about 100 housing authority residents gathered Monday in a Brownsville community center for an emergency town hall meeting, hoping to understand the agreement between the city and federal prosecutors that led to NYCHA admitting to years of misconduct.
An 80-page civil complaint, filed last week, details how NYCHA misled the federal government and the public about the number of children with troubling blood-lead levels, deceived inspectors on building conditions and failed to address widespread pest infestations. NYCHA, which has 400,000 residents across the city, signed a consent decree admitting to the actions in the complaint and agreeing to appoint an independent monitor.
“This is the start of a new day,” Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who represents parts of Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, East Flatbush and Brownsville, said following the town hall, adding that some people didn’t understand what a consent decree was. “It was imperative that we have this town hall right here in the community so people can know what it is and get their input… Change is coming, change is here.”
Ampry-Samuel added there will be monthly meetings with both City Council and HUD representatives starting in July.
Following the meeting, several residents had mixed reactions, waffling between hope and frustration, with many detailing years of problems, including leaks, the gas being turned off, bugs and rodents, and mold issues.
Jermel Wilson, 36, who has lived in the Seth Low Houses for about 30 years, said he has lived without gas in his apartment since May 28. He said he was frustrated that the timeline for implementing many of the changes discussed in the consent decree wasn’t clear yet.
“You bring us here, you get our hopes up, you talk about facts and figures and everything like that and what the development could look like, what it should look like, and how beautiful it’s going to be, but you’re getting us all puffed up with no definite answers,” Wilson said. “People are tired of fairy tales.”
Jennifer Gambrell, 59, has lived in the development for 21 years and said it’s gotten worse and worse, including losing gas herself and having very sporadic heat in the winters.
“Nothing’s going to change,” she said, adding she missed a doctor’s appointment to come to Monday’s town hall. “I’m not impressed… I don’t want to hear maybe, I want to hear this is going to happen. And we’re suffering.”
Sheila Nash, 70, has lived in the development for more than 40 years, and has dealt with several leaks, mold problems and rodent issues. But following the meeting on Monday, she was hopeful.
“It’s a good idea if they do it right, if they keep it up,” she said about a potential federal monitor. “You have to give them a chance to work.”
It wasn’t immediately clear when Carson would visit or what that visit would look like. Lynne Patton, the regional administrator for HUD, said Carson couldn’t visit prior to the agreement between the city and federal government.
“He told me just the other day that he cannot wait to come here,” Patton said about Carson. “When I first read the complaint, which was several months ago, I cried. There’s no question that there was a humanitarian crisis afoot at NYCHA… It’s unacceptable and, by the way, it’s against the law.”