NYC’s housing authority is hoarding filthy, blighted homes

By Kate Briquelet and Stephanie Pagones

For 15 years, New York’s low-income Housing Authority has owned a home in St. Albans, Queens. No one lives there. The windows are broken and the grass is overgrown.

The 120th Avenue house was so ignored that, in 2007, a dog-fighting ring moved into it right under the city’s nose. Neighbors are forced to shovel snow, clean up and nail doors shut.

“I’ve lived next door to this monstrosity … and pulled down all the weeds and done so much like it’s mine,” fumed Kathleen Gittens-Baptiste, who has desperately tried to buy the building.

But this isn’t the only home the New York City Housing Authority has left to rot.

In the midst of a housing crisis, NYCHA owns at least 80 homes that it has left to decay, in some cases for decades, The Post has learned
.
The city obtained the homes in the late 1970s from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. After tenants moved or passed away, NYCHA kept the buildings empty.

The Housing Authority now says it plans to dispose of the houses — many of them in Jamaica — because they “represent an inefficient allocation of housing resources,” according to a draft 2015 fiscal year plan filed with HUD.

 

But Gittens-Baptiste has heard those promises before.

Housing officials told her in 2008 that they would auction off the 2.5-story, 4-bedroom eyesore. Two years ago, they said Habitat for Humanity would rehab it and sell it to a public-housing tenant.

The house has two open “unsafe building” violations, Department of Buildings records show.

“We live in a terrible situation. This is wrong,” Gittens-Baptiste said. “We’ve had people break in, do their dirty work and come out. Random people with trucks throw garbage in the back yard. It’s a dumping ground.”

NYCHA’s blighted buildings are haunting what would otherwise be orderly blocks.

Marcia Blake said she won’t let her kids play in her own back yard because of mosquitoes and vermin coming from a 118th Road house that has been vacant for eight years.

“We have to deal with trespassing, garbage, mosquitoes, possums and rats,” Blake said. “I call the city every year. Sometimes they come. They just sit here, eat lunch and leave. The Housing Authority abandoned this home.”

Other deserted dwellings are used for parking. George Toro, who lives on Princeton Street in Jamaica, said he has cared for a neglected home next door for four years.

“I’m the one who cleans it . . . twice a week,” he said, adding that he parks in its driveway. “I am the security guard.”

A NYCHA spokeswoman admitted the homes have been unoccupied and deteriorating for years but said the agency doesn’t have the funds to rehab them.

Instead, housing officials are seeking HUD approval to transfer the buildings to nonprofits that can renovate and sell them as affordable housing — a process that could take years.

“We know the negative influence [the vacant homes] can create in these communities,” she said. “We’re identifying partners who can make use of these assets to increase affordable housing.”

This article was originally published in the New York Post.

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