Wednesday, April 1

Court orders City agencies to inspect boilers at Holmes Towers and Isaacs Houses

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2020
Contact: Loretta Kane (917-410-7242 or loretta@caminopr.com)

Order reaffirms NYCHA’s repair, maintenance, and transparency obligations

Residents of Holmes Towers and Isaacs Houses, New York City Housing Authority developments in the Upper East Side, returned to court today to demand further inspections of the developments and a trial on NYCHA’s failure to provide repairs.

In the last hearing between the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition and the New York City Housing Authority, Civil Court Judge Daniele Chinea had ordered NYCHA to bring their inspection reports based on documented maintenance issues. Judge Chinea had previously ordered NYCHA to ensure all elevators were in full service, heat and hot water were properly maintained, garbage was regularly collected, and pest and rodents were managed. Since then, residents of Holmes Towers and Isaacs Houses have experienced continued outages and maintenance issues, and the Department of Buildings confirmed that several elevators at the building were not up to code.

At the February 27 hearing, Civil Court Judge Michelle Schreiber directed the Department of Buildings to inspect the boilers at Holmes Towers and Isaacs Houses by March 6, and ordered NYCHA to repair any violations that were revealed by the inspections. Judge Schreiber also reiterated NYCHA’s obligation to maintain basic services and provide basic information on any repairs or maintenance to NYCHA residents.

Latisha McNeil, member of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition, recounts yet another elevator issue despite NYCHA’s agreements in court. “The elevator was out just a week after the last hearing. It opened on my floor (the 21st floor) with the door open and unsecure. I had to call the fire department.” When asked how she felt NYCHA was co-operating in this process, she said, “I think the effort is only temporary. Once they think the dust has settled, I think they are going to go back to their old ways.”

“Having lived in both developments, I can attest that excessive heat and hot water have always been a problem for decades,” says Saundrea Coleman, co-founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition. “I recall my youngest son suffering nosebleeds in Holmes and presently from time to time in Isaacs. When I transferred into the Isaacs Houses in 2015, I was unable to escape the extreme heat and scalding hot water. Our elevators, which are only a few years old, have been constantly breaking down over the last two months. The tenants are suffering daily due to the lack of repairs, disinvestment and neglect of NYCHA. We have grown weary living under these horrific circumstances, but I am hopeful that NYCHA will one day restore humane Living conditions for all residents city wide.”

Residents have all expressed frustration throughout this process. La Keesha Taylor, co-founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition, explains, “It is one thing to know in your gut that there is something wrong but to have the proof is satisfying! When the department of buildings posted the elevator violations I felt vindicated—I had been saying there was a problem from day one and here is the proof. The truly sad part is we are still riding in these elevators, violations and all, and I still have to put tickets in. It is disheartening that the federal government can declare NYCHA is in a state of crisis but still deny much needed funds.”

Jose Guevara, co-founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition, also recalled an elevator outage in his building. “I appreciate the court’s diligence on being fair to both parties as I appreciate TakeRoot Justice, Justice Center en el Barrio, Holmes Isaacs Coalition, et al who persevere through the proceedings with the conviction of a just cause.”

“Holmes and Isaacs residents deserve to have their building systems inspected by the Department of Buildings, just as any tenants of private housing would,” said Michael Leonard, Senior Staff Attorney at TakeRoot Justice. “We’re glad to see DOB taking these steps, though they should have done so even without a judge’s order.”

“The Holmes and Isaacs residents deserve a fair and equitable trial,” says Sophia Weissmann of the Justice Center en el Barrio. “Just as the residents have played their part in this trial, so too must NYCHA adhere to the level of dedication and cooperation demonstrated by the residents. For too long, public housing residents have beared the brunt of NYCHA’s disinvestment and mismanagement, a symptom of a capitalist, for-profit model of housing. We need a radical transformation of housing in this city and this country, one absent of the private sector’s stronghold.”

The petitioners will return to court Friday, April 3 for a status conference to assess the progress made on repairs to the NYCHA developments.

Past media coverage here.

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The Holmes-Isaacs Coalition was formed to combat the public housing crisis that has plagued all of NYCHA campuses and fights for adequate funding and timely repairs for all NYCHA residents. 

The Justice Center en el Barrio is an East Harlem based hub for social justice and community organization, committed to building the people’s movements. It supports organizing against racism, war, gentrification and abuses on the job.

In June 2019, following protests by the Coalition and the Justice Center en El Barrio, NYCHA withdrew its Section 18 land disposition application to HUD that would have allowed Fetner Properties to build a fifty-story luxury infill tower on top of the Holmes Towers playground. The coalition organized residents of the developments that led to this HP action and are part of greater citywide efforts to demand proper funding and maintenance of NYCHA developments without any form of privatization. TakeRoot Justice provides legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community groups in New York City to support community-based partners to dismantle racial, economic and social oppression.

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