2013-11-07 / Other News

NYCHA’s Nonsense Continues As Breukelen Houses Crumble

Photos and text by Dara Mormile


Breukelen resident Palmira Toro, sick of her living conditions, points to broken wall in her bathroom where one of many leaks began. Breukelen resident Palmira Toro, sick of her living conditions, points to broken wall in her bathroom where one of many leaks began. The minute you step into Palmira Toro’s first floor apartment at Breukelen Houses, the stench of mildew and moisture take over your senses. With cracking walls and ceilings, blackened and moldy floor tiles, her home is in deplorable condition – and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) doesn’t seem to care that it’s falling apart.

“It’s disgusting in here,” she told the Canarsie Courier in an exclusive interview this week.

When Toro moved into her apartment at 930 Williams Avenue in 1997, the only problem she had was mice – and maintenance patched up a hole where the vermin were coming from. “I didn’t have any problems until recently – and if I had a problem back then, their maintenance crews would go to it in no time.”

Toro is more than aggravated that supervisors come and go from her apartment without sending contractors to complete any work. She’s frustrated that Housing expects her to pay rent for an apartment that’s a health hazard to occupy.

The problem began with leaks in her closet and bathroom. Maintenance crews busted up a portion of her bathroom wall to locate a damaged pipe and discovered that there were leaks coming from above her apartment as well as in the basement.

“I’ve even got flies and gnats coming up from the basement because there’s dirty water down there,” she said, revealing bite marks on her arms from the gnats. “I see these gnats coming up from the sink and I’m itching like crazy!”

Despite having gone through three cans of bug spray and having Housing exterminate on several occasions, gnats and flies continue to swarm her kitchen. “I love to cook, so this is awful. I have to make sure I clean everything extra carefully.”

What’s worse is that her uncle Steven, who is homebound, lives with her and requires medical attention for open wounds. “He has a nurse who comes here every day and these conditions aren’t healthy for him.”

She’s lived in different apartments throughout Breukelen for over 50 years but has never had to live in this kind of environment. She blames NYCHA’s overall management for ignoring tenants’ needs.

“I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, spinal stenosis and I’m being treated for joint disease,” Toro said. “I plan to take Housing to court and I don’t care if I owe them back rent – let 250 Broadway come out here to see what’s going on with us!” she added, referring to the Housing agency’s headquarters in the city.


Above photos show moldy closets, cracked walls and decaying paint that Housing maintenance has yet to repair. Above photos show moldy closets, cracked walls and decaying paint that Housing maintenance has yet to repair. As far as Toro knows, tenants living above her have leaks in their walls as well and tell her that their walls are bubbling. “Where are the contractors to do all of this work? The supervisors come in to look at the problem, tell me what needs to be done, and then no one shows up.”

Piles of clothes have been stacked on top of Toro’s couch for months since she can’t keep them in her closet. “I think they should relocate me and just gut the whole apartment instead of doing patchwork.”

She’s currently looking to get a transfer to the Smith Houses in Manhattan, but is also afraid of the long wait. The aggravated tenant said top Housing officials should either replace their current administration or sell the failing development to a private company who can better tend to the buildings.

“I’m going to keep taking them to court,” she said. “I’ve already called State Senator John Sampson’s office to see if he can help me and I want to reach out to City Councilman Charles Barron.”

In addition to contacting the Canarsie Courier, she’s contacted various media outlets who have not yet exposed the grimy situation Toro has to deal with every day. While NYCHA would not offer a statement about Toro’s apartment and when she can expect repairs to finally take place, the agency has been in more hot water despite the need to take care of year-old repair tickets.

Just last week, the Daily News reported that a single mother of three has lived without hot water in her East Harlem building for two years. According to the Daily News, Manhattan Housing Court Judge Phyllis Saxe found NYCHA “in contempt of court and fined it $19,205” for making the resident and children struggle without hot water.

Unfortunately, Toro is another victim of NYCHA’s inability to finance and complete critical repairs.

Photos by Dara Mormile

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