Empty homes owned by NYC still not fixed

Kathleen Gittens-Baptiste has been living next to an abandoned New York City Housing Authority-owned house for years. Photo: Angel Chevrestt, J.C. Rice
Kathleen Gittens-Baptiste has been living next to an abandoned New York City Housing Authority-owned house for years.
Photo: Angel Chevrestt, J.C. Rice

Kathleen Gittens-Baptiste last week stood in front of the ramshackle, empty house she has lived next door to for more than 15 years.

In her hands was a framed copy of a Post article from a year ago on how the New York City Housing Authority had neglected the eyesore — and dozens of other similar abandoned houses — for decades. The 60-year-old St. Albans resident hoped the story would be different a year later.

It’s not. The two-story colonial is still boarded up, padlocked, rotting and ignored.

“I’ll see you next year,” the woman said, giving in to the expectation that NYCHA will not keep its promise to rehab and utilize the home or give it to a non-profit that will.

“Last year it had been 15 years, so add one more,” Gittens-Baptiste continued. “They told me that they were going to fix it up and have someone that lives in NYCHA be able to purchase it.”

So are five similar NYCHA-owned homes in Queens that The Post visited in June 2014.

Maswood Ahmed, 66, who lives next to the rusted and weed-choked wreck of a home on 162nd Street, said complaints to city officials have fallen on deaf ears.

“Nothing is working,” Ahmed said. “There are too many mosquitoes, raccoons, rats.”

A neighbor of an abandoned Princeton Street home said she saw squatters making camp in the home only last week.

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.

Of the 232 single-family homes, 77 remain vacant. Yet more than 270,000 New Yorkers are on the waiting list for NYCHA housing.

And while one city authority neglects the homes, according to residents, other city agencies issue blizzards of tickets for littering and other offenses to the addresses.

Eileen Bryan, 64, called the city’s 311 hot line when she found old furniture had been dumped in front of an adjacent NYCHA house on 118th Road. She was told the city-owned house would be issued a ticket.

“So you’re gonna call the city and give the city a ticket?” Bryan explained in exasperation.

The city gives varying answers to neighbors who call about the ­NYCHA homes. When one neighbor complained to 311, she was told the home needed to be vacant for at least 10 years before something could be done. Another neighbor was told he could purchase them only in batches of six.

A NYCHA spokeswoman told The Post the agency does “not have the resources to repair and rebuild many of the . . . homes we inherited from HUD decades ago.”

But the agency wants to give the homes to nonprofits that specialize in rehabbing them for occupancy by low-income, first-time buyers.

Before it can do that, the spokeswoman said, the agency must first go through the lengthy process of completing environmental assessments and appraisals, and secure approval from HUD.

This article appeared in the New York Post on July 5, 2015.

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