November 29, 2018 – New York, NY – For LSA’s Community Health Workers, a recent court settlement with NYCHA brings hope that families and children with asthma will finally get a fast and thorough response to complaints of mold in their homes.
U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley III approved a revised settlement agreement that he believes will hold the NYC Housing Authority accountable for making much needed repairs to homes with mold. The agreement introduces an independent data analyst, an independent mold expert and an ombudsperson who will oversee specific tenant complaints. The court will supervise the matter until NYCHA has demonstrated its compliance. (1)
Ray López, our Program Director and Director of Environmental Health Services, has been involved with Manhattan Together in the lawsuit that led to the agreement. He believes the decision will make a positive difference for families at LSA. East Harlem has one of the highest rates of children’s asthma emergency room visits in the city. Addressing asthma-triggering conditions like mold has been the focus of our community health work for the past twenty years.
“Our workers will be happy,” López said about the agreement. “It will be less frustrating for us. We’ve been documenting cases, going to NYCHA trying to get repairs. So we’re happy to have a new ally in this work.”
López explained how the court-appointed ombudsperson will help: “The Special Master [appointed by the court] focused on the systemic problems. He didn’t have the bandwith to speak to specific complaints. Now the ombudsperson will address that issue. NYCHA will need to send notice to the residents about what they’ve found and what they plan to do, and if the NYCHA tenant is not satisfied with the work, they can call the ombudsperson. The ombudsperson will be empowered to investigate the individual complaints and find the root causes.
“This is a relief for us because, essentially, we’ve been ombudspeople,” he added, referring to the advocacy LSA workers do on behalf of tenants. “But we don’t directly report to the court, so we don’t have that power.” He hopes that the recent agreement will result in improved conditions in homes and, ultimately, better health for families.
(1) A NYCHA mold lawsuit from 2013 gets a revised settlement approved, Nov. 29, 2018, AM NewYork