Inside NYC’s Public Housing
LSA’s Ray Lopez was Featured in a Blog by the National Resources Defense Council
The blog, entitled “Inside NYC’s Public Housing, Mold and Neglect Are a Dangerous Combo,” featured activists and residents of public housing involved in the class-action lawsuit and subsequent settlement with NYCHA. Following is an excerpt. The full story can be read on the NRDC website: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/inside-nycs-public-housing-mold-and-neglect-are-dangerous-combo
Inside NYC’s Public Housing, Mold and Neglect Are a Dangerous Combo
The New York City Housing Authority has failed to comply with court orders to remedy unhealthy living conditions. But tenants and advocates refuse to let the nation’s biggest residential landlord off the hook.
June 25, 2018 Nicole Greenfield
Director of Environmental Health, LSA Family Health Service
Ray Lopez speaks in a calm and even way, exuding a patience fundamental to his line of work. Since 2001, Lopez has worked with the East Harlem–based Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, helping people struggling with asthma to improve their indoor air quality and reduce the triggers that can lead to attacks. And although he enjoys working on a personal level with households in the neighborhood, Lopez has broadened his mission to address the larger mold and moisture issue plaguing public housing apartments across the city, linking up with Manhattan Together to pressure NYCHA to begin making the necessary repairs.
“Months into this job, I realized that while it’s nice to help one family at a time, I couldn’t ignore the reasons why people were stuck in these kinds of conditions,” he says. “And I quickly realized I couldn’t get NYCHA’s attention on my own.”
Working in tandem, Lopez and the Manhattan Together organizers were able to expedite repairs for some families suffering from rampant mold problems. He says it was rewarding to invite tenants to meetings with NYCHA representatives where they could share their stories. By bringing their concerns out into public forums, Lopez says, the residents were able to hold officials accountable. Despite some heartening cases, however, over time the quality and the timeliness of those repairs went downhill, leaving them no other option than to pursue litigation.
Details from Lopez’s visit to a Taft House apartment show moisture stains under a sink, peeling paint in a child’s bedroom, and a repaired section of a ceiling left unpainted.
Lopez notes that although they still feel frustrated by the relative lack of progress, the tenants in his community do have more tools available to them—namely, advocates like Lopez who now know how to navigate the system, and who have a direct line to legal help and New York City’s Department of Health—and they are often eager to share information with neighbors. They also feel good about shining a brighter light on the mold and asthma issue and to have gained some leverage over the housing authority to be more responsive.
“It’s been a very long game,” Lopez says. “None of these things have quick solutions. But I think we’ve done well with the options in front of us. There’s nothing really you can do except be positive, encouraging, and just not give up.”
[Photo above, from NRDC.org: Ray Lopez, director of environmental health for LSA Family Health Service, uses a device that reads moisture levels during a home visit at Manhattan’s Taft Houses.]