City Housing Conditions Pose Safety, Social Distancing Challenges During Pandemic

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Coronavirus, Health, Health Care, Housing, Housing, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

For people living in dense urban areas social distancing has been difficult, but for those who live in New York City Housing Authority buildings, it’s been near impossible.

Jermont Shim lives in NYCHA housing in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

“It’s definitely stress, with the people being on top of each other it’s a lot of stress,” Jermont said.

For Jermont, trying to navigate living on the twelfth floor with an elevator that hardly works and keeping himself away from neighbors has been a vicious cycle.

“You’re telling them to come downstairs by themselves because they can’t be accompanied because of social distancing,” he said. “So how do you help a mother down the stairs with a shopping cart from the eleventh floor?”

Currents News reached out to NYCHA about several concerns raised by residents during the pandemic, the most obvious being sanitation.

The Housing Authority said it would be sanitizing family buildings three times a week and senior buildings five times a week as well as cleaning or high traffic and common areas.

Wandy Felicita Ortiz, a producer at Currents News, lives in NYCHA housing and has been uncomfortable with what she says is NYCHA’s lack of precaution.

“It’s additionally isolating and demoralizing I would say, to be living in this environment that at the time doesn’t feel like it is safe,” Wandy said.

Wandy hasn’t seen any extra cleaning efforts since the coronavirus outbreak.

“I haven’t seen anybody wipe down mailboxes which my apartment is right next to,” she said. “I haven’t seen anyone wipe down the bannisters, no special cleaning fluids or special precautions.”

As for rent NYCHA says it’s doing everything it can to work with residents who are now unemployed or have had their hours cut.

According to the Housing Authority, evictions are suspended for as long as the city is under a state of emergency.

As for after that NYCHA residents are able to file an Interim Recertification to lower their rent based on their changed income or apply for one-time assistance, yet residents say there’s still so much uncertainty.

“Rent is still coming out but money’s not being generated,” Jermont said. “The people in my neighborhood are desperately in need of answers on rent.”

“Not knowing your home housing situation, especially for senior citizens who are already disconnected in that way, I think it’s unjust,” added Wandy.