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Low Income Housing Tenants Fight Back on Mold Issues in NYC

New York City has about 400,000 people living in public housing for low-income residents. Although the need for repairs is common in public housing, the orders for repairs filed with the New York City Housing Authority, who owns 179,000 public housing apartments, has risen to a backlog of 300,000 work orders. The most serious repair issue they are dealing with is mold.

The Dangers of Mold

Mold can cause health problems that range from itching eyes, sneezing and coughing to serious allergic reactions, asthma attacks and even permanent lung damage. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, mold is a problem that disproportionately affects low-income residents. People with asthma or other breathing problems are at greatest risk. Not taking care of the problem is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires landlords to make accommodations for the disabled.

Lack of Cooperation From The Housing Authority

Frustrated by the lack of cooperation from the Housing Authority, many public housing residents filed class action lawsuits against the NYC Housing Authority. Although Mayor Bloomberg blames the slow response on economics, this does not negate the city's obligation to protect the sick against serious health issues related to mold.

One example is a tenant whose request to repair a water leak resulted in housing authority workers cutting away the water-damaged wall, covering the hole with plastic, and then informing her it could be 9 months before the repair could be completed.

Lawsuit Already Filed

The resulting lawsuit includes specific request to properly fix mold issues as well as addressing other leaks and moisture problems that could lead to mold.  So far, the city's Housing Authority has been cooperative in tackling the mold issues and addressing other repair concerns with quicker response times. It is estimated that there are thousands of low-income residents living in public housing who have been diagnosed with asthma, including children.

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