In Red Hook, Sandy Aftermath Bring Complaints of Squalor in Public Housing

Friday, November 09, 2012

The city says 82 percent of public housing developments now have power and 70 percent have heat and hot water. But that still means thousands of residents are living in substandard conditions. 

Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn, where more than 6,000 people live, is one of the worst-off developments. About half the residents are still dealing with power outages, no heat and in some cases no water at all.

The conditions have led to a variety of side-effects. Carolyn Huffman said she doesn't want to leave her apartment because she fears she'll be robbed. 

"Three days now I have been getting small candles and I put them in the hallway up and down," Huffman said.  "Why? Because people cannot see who is waiting for them when they come in the building." 

But she said she didn't believe the candles were a fire hazard because they were small. 

Another resident, Araceli Antonetty, lives in a building that's pitch black and littered with trash. A sign taped to the front of her building says, "We are not animals," and lists the number of a state senator to call about conditions. Antonetty said she fears coming down the dark stairwells to take her 7-year-old daughter to school in the morning. She says there are other problems too.

"It smells really bad because people are peeing in the stairways or taking a crap in bags and throwing them in the stairways, " Antonetty said.  "Bags of foods are backed up in the incinerators."

Guillermo Figueroa, 80, and his wife also live in the darkened building. They refuse to evacuate to a shelter and say no one from the housing authority or from aid organizations, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is lending a hand. 

"They say FEMA is helping but no one has come to see us," Figueroa said.

His wife, who can't walk because of arthritis, was bundled up in a Red Cross blanket and several wool coats. The blanket was brought to them by the couple's home attendant from a nearby city-run shelter, which is also giving away water and other supplies.

A FEMA site just opened at an Ikea store nearby, but workers were still setting up internet access Thursday.

The New York City Housing Authority said it was bringing temporary boilers to Red Hook Friday, but that it could take up to three days to install them. The authority also said it would set up temporary electrical components and that power should return by next week. 


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