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NYCHA tenants weary of housing conditions

Tenants at Parkside Houses in Olinville are beset with urine and rodents. Tenants at Castle Hill Houses describe the development as in disrepair. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is $45 million in the hole. So what’s the good news? Tenants want to lend a hand and NYCHA has promised to plug away at maintenance problems.

“We have to help NYCHA,” Castle Hill Houses tenant association president Roxanne Reid said. “We have to care about where we live. I know I care about where I live.”

Reid fled the south Bronx to Castle Hill Houses in 1975. She watched the tenements burn and crumble. She watched some south Bronx residents cease to care. Reid is determined to rescue her development from a similar fate, because there are problems at Castle Hill Houses. General maintenance has suffered as NYCHA has suffers budget setbacks. It used to employ two maintenance workers at each building, now only one, Reid said. That means un-swept halls and graffiti-scarred stairwells. Castle Hill Houses, which consists of 14 buildings and 2,025 apartments, has five maintenance workers, NYCHA spokesman Howard Marder said. Workers reported to Reid shortages of cleaning supplies and equipment. There are none, Marder said.

To compensate, Reid has marshaled tenants in her building to form clean floor teams. The teams have made a difference, Patricia Herrera said.

“We need to get together,” Herrera added.

Parkside Houses has similar problems, said a tenant who asked not to be named. Elevators at the development stink of urine, he reported. In the 1990s, NYCHA was kinder to Parkside Houses. So were tenants.

“It has gotten bad in the last three years,” the tenant said. “I grew up here so it hurts. The conditions are embarrassing.”

The tenant has started to buy his own mops and cleaning supplies. He has asked Community Board 11 Olinville chair Joe Thompson for help. Thompson is more concerned about a Parkside Houses rodent problem, though.

Parkside Houses, which consists of 14 building and 879 apartments. It is budgeted for six maintenance workers but has only five, Marder said. NYCHA plans to treat each Parkside Houses building for rodents soon, to halt the problem.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid a visit to Castle Hill Houses in August to promote “green” boiler and light upgrade at the development. Bloomberg had tenant Matthew Mendez speak; NYCHA trained Mendez to work on the upgrade team.

A federal law known as “Section 3” requires NYCHA to offer jobs to tenants; more than 25 percent of NYCHA workers are tenants, Marder said. But Reid thinks too few Castle Hill tenants were hired for the green upgrades. NYCHA hired 11 tenants for the Castle Hill Houses upgrade and has fulfilled its Section 3 mandate, Marder said.

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