What a waste NYCHA mess at Throggs Neck Houses
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Indiana Jones he is not, but Alexander Malloy has become very acquainted with fighting back against swamps and eruptions.
In the past four years, Malloy’s first floor apartment at the Throggs Neck Houses has filled with a deluge of sewage approximately 20 times.
The Houses are New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) properties, and its residents are largely seniors.
“It’s like a volcano; you can’t stop it,” said Malloy of the flood of raw sewage that spills out from his bathtub, his sink, and toilet bowl, and floods into his apartment.
“It’s a free flow, and I’m slipping and sliding through the sludge.”
The sewage is an accumulation of the waste from the apartments that are stacked on top of his. When the waste is not properly pumped out of the building’s decades-old plumbing system, the overflow has nowhere to go but up into first floor apartments.
“And then I don my gloves and take out my chemicals to clean it up,” explained Malloy, with a sigh.
NYCHA is not always punctual when dealing with the mess in Malloy’s apartment, he said, noting that it sometimes took up to 20 hours to respond.
Even after the mess is cleaned up, there is a concern that the affected apartments are now contaminated, and that bacteria and germs could attack the compromised immune systems of the senior population that resides in Malloy’s building.
Fellow resident Bessie Whitaker does not have a loamy deluge on her floor, but suffers from a different catastrophe.
An entire wall in her living room sheds giant chunks of plaster, leaving bald and bare the cement wall beneath. There is enough exposed wall to paint a fresco. The wall, with cracks like lightning streaks bolting from top to bottom, looks like it belongs in an ancient chapel.
The closet adjacent to the wall is full of mold and chipped plaster.
Whitaker blames the mold that has been a constant presence on that particular wall—which is behind an elevator shaft.
On hot days, the mold causes a stench in the apartment, and she can’t keep anything against the wall or in the closet.
As a result, all of Whitaker’s belongings are piled up in the center of her apartment.
Whitaker said a work order had been issued as recently as August 2, but no work had been done in the weeks since.
Additionally, the NYCHA workers who had stopped came to see the wall told her all it needed was a paint job.
Whitaker has been living in the Throggs Neck houses for over 10 years; the wall has been an issue since she first moved in.
In her decade of residence, this is the first time she has not paid her rent so she can take her case to court, in the hope that her refusal to pay will prompt NYCHA to fix the wall.
“Why do I have to go through that to get this done?”
Whitaker is especially worried that the damage will spread to her kitchen cabinets; the borders of the bare wall have been extended do the kitchen, and the wall next to her fridge.
On Mon., Aug. 12, State Senator Jeff Klein, along with former City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, toured the Houses on Randall Avenue, and spoke to several other residents about their issues at the houses.
So far this year, Sen. Klein’s office has handled 50 NYCHA related cases in his district, said spokesperson Anna Durrett, with a majority of those cases stemming from the Throggs Neck Houses.
The two officials urged NYCHA to handle the issues at the Throggs Neck Houses.
Thompson concluded that NYCHA leadership has been “out of touch and unresponsive.”
Despite its suffering budget cuts, NYCHA has prompted questions about its use of money.
Over $40 million had been allocated in 2012 for cameras to be installed in housing projects, but only a quarter of that money has been spent, pointed out Thompson.
Current city comptroller John Liu, also a candidate for mayor, announced last month that NYCHA has $700 million in unused finds, even as it borrows money from the federal government.
Thompson urged NYCHA to fix the pipes “before a $200,000 job becomes a $1 million job. Get the work done.”
Thompson also said he would get rid of the Commissioner John Rhea, the controversial Commissioner of NYCHA who used to work on Wall Street.
Sen. Klein attested to the devolution of NYCHA.
“NYCHA needs a shake up; it needs a new regime.”
Residents would agree.
Malloy said he needs to rest assured he won’t wake up in a swamp of sewage.
And in the meantime, Whitaker too is calling for repairs to her home.
“You shouldn’t have to live like this,” she said, shaking her head.
For a video of the conditions of Alexander Malloy’s apartment, please visit http://youtu.be/SvH1LqBveR4.