Housing Authority Wants Tenants to Downsize, Residents Say

Tenants at a Lower East Side public housing development say the city's housing authority is pressuring them to give up their larger apartments for smaller ones that fit their family size.  Many of the tenants are senior citizens who've lived in their current home decades.

Estelle Leak, 59, said she and her elderly mother live in a three-bedroom apartment at the Jacob Riis Houses and recently got a letter notifying them they would need to relocate to a two-bedroom unit. 

Leak said her wheelchair-bound mother has lived in the same apartment for 51 years: "She doesn't want to go. That's her life. That's her home. That's not an apartment — it's her home," she said.

Julia Mulero said she already gave up her three-bedroom unit for a one-bedroom in the same building. Molero said at one time there were five people in her family, but now she's the only one left. 

The 60-year old said she was all right with moving because it lowered her $824 monthly rent by about $200, and she was allowed to stay in the same building. Plus, she said she was told if she didn't go she'd be taken to court. 

"I'm satisfied, but as long as they don't get us out of here I'll be happy because this has been my home for all my life," Mulero said. Like other tenants, she worries the New York City Housing Authority it trying to empty the Lower East Side complex to make room for private, luxury development. NYCHA said there's no truth to that claim.

Clara Garcia has also received a letter asking her to downsize from her current three-bedroom unit. The NYCHA tenant said so far she's refused to respond. She said she keeps one of the bedrooms for her daughter who visits from Florida often. Garcia said in the 40 years she's lived in her current apartment, she's spent alot of money fixing it up.

"I don't ask NYCHA for anything," Garcia said. "My sons paint and fix everything."

NYCHA said residents living in apartments that are inappropriate for their family size are required by federal regulations and local policies to transfer to smaller units: "The units that are vacated by these transfers are then made available to the more than 130,000 residents on our waiting list who are in need of these housing units," it said in a statement.