Sanders seeks more NYCHA oversight

State Sen. James Sanders, Jr. (c.) meets with residents outside South Jamaica's Baisley Park Houses to discuss legislation he is proposing to provide oversight of health issues at public housing. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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Public housing tenants in southeast Queens have long suspected their neglected apartments may have something to do with increased asthma rates and possibly even cancer, and now one lawmaker wants to send the state on a fact-finding mission to see if those theories are true.

Inside her Baisley Park Houses apartment, Bonita Guin said she does not know what her home’s living conditions do to her 3-year-old son living with cancer, but it cannot be good.

“It probably has an effect on him,” she said. “I’m angry. It’s scary.”

Guin and some other 400,000 New York City Housing Authority residents won a victory late last year when the city settled a lawsuit agreeing to do a better job removing mold from public housing apartments.

The National Center for Law and Economic Justice and the National Resources Defense Council argued that NYCHA simply bleached and painted over moldy walls and cited a study that found children living in the city’s public housing had asthma rates nearly two times higher than those living in other situations.

State Sen. James Sanders (D-Ozone Park) and the progressive organizing group New York Communities for Change toured the Baisley Park Houses last week where, in addition to the mold, posters warn residents about asbestos abatement.

“I saw some stuff we need to work on. I saw physical conditions that lead to despair,” Sanders said. “I saw conditions that are not right for the human spirit and I encourage NYCHA to redouble its efforts to meet the needs of people here.”

Sanders said he was going to introduce a bill that would require the state Department of Health to study the link, if any, between public housing and certain illnesses.

“We want them to say, ‘Is there a problem with asthma?’ and if there is to start talking about what we’re going to do to solve this problem,” he said. “When we’re speaking of asbestos and the freeing of asbestos that leads to many conditions — the minor one would be asthma and the major one, of course, would be cancer.”

The senator also introduced a bill backing the court settlement, which would require NYCHA to remediate mold within 15 days of receiving a complaint.

A.U. Hogan, president of the Baisley houses tenant association, said NYCHA residents have for too long been treated like second-class citizens, and it was time the city cleaned up its act.

“I can look back three decades. I thought it was a coincidence that you got to a certain age and you just died,” he said. “When you look now and you look at them start to put up posters about asbestos that got inside the tiles and inside the bathrooms and inside the walls, then you start making the correlation that maybe some of those deaths were attributed to that asbestos that has been there.”

The senator said it would be easy to bash NYCHA, but more productive to work with the authority to remedy the problems.

“Our argument is not with the managers. Our argument is for something — for better conditions in our apartments, for better conditions, safer streets and a better condition out here,” Sanders said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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Reader Feedback

Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
Let's face it, all of Jamaica needs to have a good look at under a microscope. There are way too many quality of life issues in this community, too much corruption at a local level and NOTHING is getting done at all to better this community of color.

Certainly would not be the case if it was white.
Feb. 10, 2014, 7:02 am
Huh? from Queens says:
So it is the apartments that makes them sick. Not their poor diet, use of illegal drugs, stressful lives given their lack of financial resources. No it is just the apartments. So if we moved them to Malba, they would be fine. Yeah right.
Feb. 11, 2014, 12:34 pm

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