Investigations

Investigation into NYC affordable housing

Monday, February 13, 2012

From the outside, the building constructed under the Mayor's affordable housing initiative looks brand new.

"All down here, couch is wet part of ceiling," said Jim Hoffer, Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter.

"Yes, yes in living room bedrooms. Four years we've been going through this," said Max Ramirez, Bronx resident.

Inside though, apartments Eyewitness News visited appear to be falling apart.

The main problem is that the ceilings are sieves.

"They say this is a maintenance issue?" Hoffer asked.

"Yeah, no, no they built this wrong, they built it wrong," Ramirez said.

"No, no it fell," said Todd Evora, a resident.

"The whole ceiling?" Hoffer asked.

"The whole ceiling, this has been repaired," Evora said.

Eyewitness News knocked on the doors at five buildings all constructed under Bloomberg's $8-billion push to provide 165,000 units of new affordable housing by the end of his third term.

In each one, Eyewitness News found the dreams of working families to live comfortably drowned out by leaks.

"Water was actually pouring down as we came in to check apartment, had to be a main pipe that broke," said Hermer Perez, a resident.

"So, whenever it snows or rains you can't use your bedroom?" Hoffer asked.

"Yes, that's it," the resident said.

"You should be able to sleep in your room," Hoffer said.

"I know," the resident said.

"All the water came through cracks in ceilings and it was like it was raining in here," said Erika Martinez, a resident.

The leaks have damaged new units that rent for up to $1,500: warped window sills, water stained ceilings, and mold.

For some, when it rains outside, it rains inside too.

A bedroom in a brand new building in the Bronx that a working mother moved into eight months ago is having issues.

Buying curtains and nice furniture have been put on hold, instead buckets and mops decorate her apartment.

"This is a brand new building?" Hoffer asked.

"Yes it is," said Lantanya Rentas, a resident.

"What do you make of that?" Hoffer asked.

"A cheap job, fast work, they just wanted their money I guess," Rentas said.

Eyewitness News showed our report to the Chairman of City Council's Housing and Buildings Committee:

"There's no way after five years you see the type of conditions that were displayed in that video," said Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, (D) City Council.

Councilman Dilan says it's clear that the problems go beyond the usual preventative maintenance issues.

"If we're going on the basis of what I saw on the video that, in my mind, is clear visual evidence of construction deficiencies," Councilman Dilan said.

"Should we be seeing serious leaks in new construction?" Hoffer asked.

"Well, my response to that is no you shouldn't be seeing serious leaks in new construction," said Mathew Wambua, Department of Housing Preservation Commissioner.

The head of the Department of Housing Preservation says when an agency oversees the building of 130,000 units of new housing, there will be some problems, but he insists the vast majority of the units are in good condition.

"We tend to think if we keep knocking on doors, we'll keep finding problems. How can you be so sure that this isn't more widespread?" Hoffer asked.

"If it was one door, we would have concerns. If it's two, we have more concerns. We can only go by the amount of complaints that are provided to us. On the basis of the complaints that have been provided to us, we have no sense that this is a systemic issue," Wambua said.

$8 billion in new construction, but some of it, how much no one seems to know for sure, seems to already be showing its age.

"This is brand new quality affordable housing?" Hoffer asked.

Hermer Perez/ Tenant: "That's what they say, quality is the key point. Is it really quality based on what you see?" Perez asked.

Tuesday at 6 p.m., Eyewitness News takes a look at new townhouses built under the affordable housing program.

Families believed they were buying a piece of the American dream, and now feel trapped in a nightmare with no end.

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If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com.

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