Red Hook Houses Tenants Call for NYCHA Reform


As of last week, tenants in the Red Hook Houses vowed to do something about conditions after Hurricane Sandy and what they perceive as neglect and unfair treatment from NYCHA, The New York Times reported Friday. The article did not address whether anything had changed later in the week once hot water and heat were reportedly restored to all apartments. Apparently the answer is no. NYCHA residents are planning a city wide action against NYCHA at its headquarters tomorrow morning, Brownstoner has learned. They are calling for NYCHA to cancel rent for November and December, to replace the NYCHA board with one led by community members, to improve transparency and accountability to residents, and employ NYCHA residents to repair buildings, among other things. The protest is scheduled for Tuesday morning from 9 am to 11 am at 250 Broadway in Manhattan.
In Public Housing, a Rising Clamor for Compassion [NY Times]
Photo by NYCHA

49 Comment

  • The only logical solution is to give tenants 1 year of free rent with vouchers for furniture and appliance upgrades, and to add a large inground pool for residents only, that can double as an ice rink in winter months. Next year there should be a plan in place to add more parking as well, so that each tenant has 2 reserved parking spaces.

  • I am so tired of all the talk about low income housing in this City. It is just over the top. MOVE OUT!!!!!!!! Arent these cheap apartments supposed to be a temporary solution? You are not supposed to live there for 3 generations!

  • What do they expect when they depend on the government for everything?

  • thebrooklynbrawler

    As a Red Hook resident, I can tell you first hand that the disproportionate overall attention from the city, most resources and majority of volunteer work from the Red Cross and other volunteer groups has been primarily directed at the residence that live in the housing projects. I don’t think that this is a bad thing, I personally somewhat believe that those who have less should be given a bit more attention than those who have more in times like this. But holding rent and trying to play this out as some form of neglect complete from the NYCHA is bullshit. All the business on Van Brunt, all home owners in the area, all renters had just as bad. And we all had it better than those in Far Rockaway and Strong Island. Why do they feel that they are entitled to not pay for rent for TWO months is beyond me.

  • I think these folks need to get the hell out of public housing and find a way to make it through life like the rest of us. Government will never be the answer to all your problems. NYCHA does need reform, it needs to be converted into housing for the elder. No sympathy from me and pretty much the rest of New York.

    • How the hell are ppl supposed to move out.. where the hell they gonna go? No real jobs out there and the ones tht are dont pay enough so they have no choice but to depend on public housing

  • minard

    there needs to be an emergency plan in place in case of flooding for all private and public housing in the “A” zone. A permanent generator that can
    keep at least one elevator and one water pump going at least for part of the day is crucial. What is an older person supposed to do if he or she is stuck on a high floor with no water or toilet or heat or light? It is inhumane.

  • minard

    there needs to be an emergency plan in place in case of flooding for all private and public housing in the “A” zone. A permanent generator that can
    keep at least one elevator and one water pump going at least for part of the day is crucial. What is an older person supposed to do if he or she is stuck on a high floor with no water or toilet or heat or light? It is inhumane.

  • time for them to go. public housing is a disaster. the little old ladies in there shelter their irresponsible kids, nephew, nieces and all the others so they can avoid having to pay the bills like the rest of us. Good riddance

  • time for them to go. public housing is a disaster. the little old ladies in there shelter their irresponsible kids, nephew, nieces and all the others so they can avoid having to pay the bills like the rest of us. Good riddance

  • Wow, so much for the milk of human kindness in this holiday season. So glad so many who have probably never even set foot in any NYCHA housing in your lives know so much about the lives of those who do.

    Such as the fact that most people there are working in jobs that pay so little, they can never afford to live anywhere else in New York City. Yet they are still expected to get to those garment center, cleaning, nanny, and other service jobs that make it possible for those better off to enjoy their lives, and pursue their dreams.

    NYCHA is not perfect, they could certainly use some reform, and the fact that residents WANT to work on their buildings’ repairs, and want to be accountable to each other and take control of how the projects do business, shows they are not sitting around waiting for that mythical “entitlement.” What’s wrong with that? Sounds great to me.

    But please, it’s so much easier to sit high above and heap scorn on those below. Yeah, get the bad apples out, but they are not the story here. It’s the ordinary Janes and Joes, as well as a lot of elderly people, who live in the projects, who need them to be better. Perhaps a little rabble rousing will bring positive change. Rent strikes may or may not be the way to go, but seems like in this city, the only way to get anyone’s attention is to hit them in the wallet. Why should that be any different for NYCHA residents?

  • expert_textpert

    Poor people should just move out of Brooklyn. There’s really no place for them here anymore in this organic, trendy, artisanal borough.

    Get rid of affordable housing and turn the buildings into luxury condos.

  • approx 65% of the tenants are working families on low to middle incomes
    the ignorant comments in this blog today are typical and beneath those who wrote them

    i live across the street from an older NYCHA project and it is fine

    The Authority, which has many issues, it still one of the best run in America. Thank god we have 170,000 NYCHA units so there is a place to go for folks with lower incomes

  • thebrooklynbrawler

    Jeez, why do these things get so polarized? The focus is on canceling rent for November and December because SOME residents see the damage done from the hurricane disaster as neglect on NYCHA and the City’s part. I believe, as most people on this blog, in affordable housing, I think that NYCHA for the most part handled this situation proactively, and I think that for better or worse, more resources then most were focused on Red Hook Housing, specifically because all eyes are on how the city handles residents of NYCHA. But just because you live in a NYCHA residence does not give you the right not to pay for TWO months of Government subsidized services. Mortgage companies are not waiving their mortgage payments for homeowners, electric companies are not comping out two months to all Red Hook residents….

  • thebrooklynbrawler

    Jeez, why do these things get so polarized? The focus is on canceling rent for November and December because SOME residents see the damage done from the hurricane disaster as neglect on NYCHA and the City’s part. I believe, as most people on this blog, in affordable housing, I think that NYCHA for the most part handled this situation proactively, and I think that for better or worse, more resources then most were focused on Red Hook Housing, specifically because all eyes are on how the city handles residents of NYCHA. But just because you live in a NYCHA residence does not give you the right not to pay for TWO months of Government subsidized services. Mortgage companies are not waiving their mortgage payments for homeowners, electric companies are not comping out two months to all Red Hook residents….

  • Ultimately, you get what you pay for. NYCHA is a disaster because it has no money… because its tenants often don’t pay their rent (the backlog on rent-related evictions is years long), and when they do pay rent, they pay only a pittance. If NYCHA charged at-cost rent, still well below market rates and affordable to most residents, the quality of service would be a lot better.

  • At this rate we’ll soon have mean-spirited comments from every single one of the Romney voters in brownstone Brooklyn, The comment count might reach as high as two dozen :-)

  • I grew up in a Queens neighborhood that was taken over by public housing in the 1960s. It went downhill from there. The majority of people I went to High School with thought you were a moron if you went to college. The idea was to have kids and get more checks and try to have as much fun as you can before you got shot. The majority of people there were not good, they were bad. Every day was a mugging, a rape, a murder, a fight, or something else. It never was — and never will be — a good idea to have such concentrated areas of public housing… Townhouse-style here and there is a much better plan.

  • agreed. montrose morris makes great points as does the brooklynbrawler for bringing the discussion back on point. no one should label an entire community for the actions of the minority and it’s probably not reasonable to expect 2 months of free rent because of the perceived lack of response to the storm.

  • Havemeyer

    I’m sure no permits knows that people can inherit rent controlled apartments, minard! He is, after all, the expert.

  • Sorry montrosemorris, there are many people who are sick of paying taxes and funding social programs that are basically a failure. The Janes and Joes, you know what, they screwed up long ago, didn’t take school seriously enough to be able to compete and get by in this world without taxpayer dollars subsidizing their lives. If anything, public housing should go to cops, fireman, teachers, sanitation workers, people who shouldn’t have to commute so far and long to the areas that they work in this city. House cleaners, nannies and the like compete against too many illegal immigrants or off the books workers, and in many cases have to work cheap for cash in order to compete. They are not entitled to live in public housing because of the profession they are in , nonetheless.

    Housing projects may be full of plain and ordinary nice people but the bottom line is those same people are no more entitled to my tax dollars as is a highway that needs to be paved. They need better jobs, better education, better training, and then they can live in a decent place. It’s called investing in yourself so you can be self-reliant

  • I read all these unfortunate comments from you so called liberals on this site. People forget that these folks represent the labor class of our city. They do the jobs you would not do..like pour your coffee in the morning, empty your trash bins, work at mc donalds or any service area jobs, security at your work offices, janitors, street cleaners, cab drivers etc. Think about it every city has and needs a labor class. As much as everyone would like to think that their financial problems are on par with yours then you are sadly mistaken. Most cannot survive financially in this city. We have to understand that there will always be a labor class since a lot of businesses prefer to exploit the price of labor at the expense of profit. Do you really think someone can survive off of 7.86 dollars an hour in NY…really you 5 dollar latte’ cafe drinkers on this site? Just ask the person who serves you coffee at the cafe shops how they make out. Most will be hard press to tell you that its very difficult to live in a decent place. This city messed up when it was constructed many moons ago. They placed a group of people(lower class) in one area instead of mixing them up with those who have. That would have helped to break the cycle of poverty in most cases by allowing some of those who don’t have to attend better schools, increase professional work exposure and better quality of life. But that did not happen..you have everyone living with the same mentality which does not work …anyway I can go on and on but the bottom line is this…every society has a working class and we have to be understanding to their needs just as much as we expect those to be in the middle class and up. After all… as my aunt would say some one has to “empty the bed pans”. And to address this talk of entitlement well if you live there and pay your taxes like the next person or in their case more than the 2% then I guess this should not be a topic of discussion.

  • Springs, I don’t know what world you live in, but here, not everyone starts out their paths in life on an equal field of play. It’s great to think that the working poor are in the projects only because they didn’t take school seriously enough, but that’s certainly not reality. That’s a poorly thought out fantasy that allows you to write them off, and justify it by saying they somehow are only poor because they don’t care enough to be rich. Riiigghhtt.

    And if that were the case, what of all the screw-ups from better off or wealthy families who partied/drugged/drank their way through high school and college, yet still have the good life? How does your theory of of taking school seriously enough work out there? Success in life is a combination of many factors, some quite beyond people’s abilities to choose.

    It should be patently obvious that first of all, life is not an even playing field, and the deck is massively stacked against the poor, from birth. They don’t get to go to the good schools, don’t have a college tradition in the family, don’t have generations of college educated people in their families, people with good jobs, and able to send their kids to good schools, and prepare them to be there. There is no legacy to the Ivy League.

    I suggest that you stop looking at other people’s lives and experience as if they were the same as yours, perhaps with an accent, or more color, or with only less money. Their life experiences, more than likely, are nothing like yours. Their playing field starts out in childhood with disadvantage, racism, anti-immigrant bias, perhaps language bias, even hunger, perhaps worse. Not to mention the expectation of failure before you even start. And if you did come from that background, surely you know how hard it is to excel.

    I’ve never lived in the projects, but I have friends and relatives who have, or do. Some of them were teachers just starting out, or parochial school teachers, as well as teacher’s aides, health care workers, garment workers, salespeople, office workers. All the kind of people, who as crooklyn said, make this city run. They are paid marginally better than fast food workers, cashiers or cleaning crews, but they can’t afford market rate apartments in New York City, either. NYCHA housing was established for just these people.

    • Typical how liberals have to go on a personal attack when someone disagrees with them. You are making assumptions about me which are completely baseless.

      First of all I live in Brooklyn, have been for a long time. So your first personal attack on me is completely wrong and condescending.

      I don’t need a lecture from you on how to look at other people’s lives. You certainly had no problem judging me and my whole life story because I disagree with your opinion on public housing.

      ” Their life experiences, more than likely, are nothing like yours.”

      You don’t know me at all, so where do you get the nerve to judge me based on a post on public housing?

      ” NYCHA was established just for these people.”

      We all know how fast that concept changed and how fast the quality of life went down hill, and crime went up. The original purpose changed rapidly and threw the projects into a tailspin in which it may never recover. ‘

      Stop apologizing for people for the choices they made! It’s called personal responsibility!

      • “First of all I live in Brooklyn, have been for a long time. So your first personal attack on me is completely wrong and condescending.”

        Apparently you have not lived here long enough or was not born here to understand the dynamics of living in Brooklyn. Its your mentality that breeds contempt for those who don’t look or act like you. Brooklyn is about community as far as I can remember being born here. People from all walks of life respect each other and bond organically. If someone does not like you then they will let you know however if they do its not a sometime affair… a special bond is created no matter who you are. Thats Brooklyn! Everybody pretty much respects everybody and it did not matter if the other person was rich or not it was understood that everyone has something to share. It could be a brief conversation with the door man of your luxury apt lobby who offers you a perspective on something thats been troubling you. Or the corner store clerk who is always happy to greet you by name. Maybe you come from a different environment where the focus was on self like the sub-burbs or wherever but here in Brooklyn or BK as we used to and sometimes still say. Everyone greets each other and not walk past each other like strangers especially if you see someone more than once. If you not interested in wanting to understand the dynamics of this great city..then you can alway move to manhattan, long island or queens even.

        “We all know how fast that concept changed and how fast the quality of life went down hill, and crime went up. The original purpose changed rapidly and threw the projects into a tailspin in which it may never recover. ”

        I agree with you on this one. At the end of the day it was about money with these city planners such as Robert Moses. Thats why I support some aspects of gentrification as long as these folks are getting a chance to get ahead. Which means better schools, safety, and quality of life. Lastly I am all about social responsibility however what I do know is that everyone and I mean everyone has received help in some form to get ahead in life. No one has done it alone. Not even you

    • Typical how liberals have to go on a personal attack when someone disagrees with them. You are making assumptions about me which are completely baseless.

      First of all I live in Brooklyn, have been for a long time. So your first personal attack on me is completely wrong and condescending.

      I don’t need a lecture from you on how to look at other people’s lives. You certainly had no problem judging me and my whole life story because I disagree with your opinion on public housing.

      ” Their life experiences, more than likely, are nothing like yours.”

      You don’t know me at all, so where do you get the nerve to judge me based on a post on public housing?

      ” NYCHA was established just for these people.”

      We all know how fast that concept changed and how fast the quality of life went down hill, and crime went up. The original purpose changed rapidly and threw the projects into a tailspin in which it may never recover. ‘

      Stop apologizing for people for the choices they made! It’s called personal responsibility!

  • expert_textpert

    This has been so depressing to read.
    Well off (and supposedly educated) people are so clueless.

  • It never ceases to amaze me that the first name to be called like it’s poison is “liberal.” Well, I’m proud to be a liberal, especially when it comes to issues of housing and people’s lives. You call me condescending? Funny coming from someone who wrote a long column deriding an entire group for daring to live in public housing. I stand by every statement I made. You are the one being condescending. There is no shame, or lack of personal responsibility, in living in housing that was set up for exactly that use – to help the working poor live in the city. End of story.

  • It never ceases to amaze me that the first name to be called like it’s poison is “liberal.” Well, I’m proud to be a liberal, especially when it comes to issues of housing and people’s lives. You call me condescending? Funny coming from someone who wrote a long column deriding an entire group for daring to live in public housing. I stand by every statement I made. You are the one being condescending. There is no shame, or lack of personal responsibility, in living in housing that was set up for exactly that use – to help the working poor live in the city. End of story.

    • I think I love you, LOL.Your comments here, as usual, are so well expressed. I lived in the projects as a child, and now live in a relatively affluent neighborhood. I can tell you from firsthand experience, no one thinks living in the projects is ideal. However, if you live in this city and and do not make what is considered middle income salary, the pickings are slim. Where are they supposed to live?

    • I think I love you, LOL.Your comments here, as usual, are so well expressed. I lived in the projects as a child, and now live in a relatively affluent neighborhood. I can tell you from firsthand experience, no one thinks living in the projects is ideal. However, if you live in this city and and do not make what is considered middle income salary, the pickings are slim. Where are they supposed to live?

  • bryanx

    In the early mornings on the B61, more than two weeks after the storm, I watched people file onto the bus – clean, dressed for work and school. Mostly silent, with 1000 mile stares. Living without power and/or heat and or hot water. The Houses were a mess, and the folks I saw on the bus every morning were doing their best to “make like normal”. The pain was thick in the air; people holding on to their dignity as best they could.

    NYCHA made a bad situation worse by providing almost no communication. General Manager Cecil House admitted as much and said that next time they would be better prepared to distribute flyers to get information out.

    Seriously?! NYCHA doesn’t own a laser printer or a copier? That’s how far their collective head is wedged up their ass. They don’t currently have the skill to disseminate information that a teenage stoner zine publisher from 1991 did?

    Red Hook Initiative rose to the challenge. As did the Occupy people and neighborhood grassroots orgs that popped up out of nowhere to help.

    and speaking of those who pick up the trash: one of the DSNY workers (who for several days was clearing mountain after mountain of detritus from our street using Skip Loaders) had two of his three houses destroyed by Sandy… the two properties he has that he rents out to others. His third house, the one he lives in, is on high ground.

  • bryanx

    In the early mornings on the B61, more than two weeks after the storm, I watched people file onto the bus – clean, dressed for work and school. Mostly silent, with 1000 mile stares. Living without power and/or heat and or hot water. The Houses were a mess, and the folks I saw on the bus every morning were doing their best to “make like normal”. The pain was thick in the air; people holding on to their dignity as best they could.

    NYCHA made a bad situation worse by providing almost no communication. General Manager Cecil House admitted as much and said that next time they would be better prepared to distribute flyers to get information out.

    Seriously?! NYCHA doesn’t own a laser printer or a copier? That’s how far their collective head is wedged up their ass. They don’t currently have the skill to disseminate information that a teenage stoner zine publisher from 1991 did?

    Red Hook Initiative rose to the challenge. As did the Occupy people and neighborhood grassroots orgs that popped up out of nowhere to help.

    and speaking of those who pick up the trash: one of the DSNY workers (who for several days was clearing mountain after mountain of detritus from our street using Skip Loaders) had two of his three houses destroyed by Sandy… the two properties he has that he rents out to others. His third house, the one he lives in, is on high ground.