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Long Beach public housing lacks Sandy repairs, report says

James Hutchinson of Long Beach, who lived at

James Hutchinson of Long Beach, who lived at the Channel Park Homes during superstorm Sandy and who has since moved to another area of Long Beach, spoke of the horrible conditions in the community during a meeting Tuesday evening, March 29, 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts have overlooked victims in a low-income housing development in Long Beach, according to a report by ERASE Racism, which found residents fear their homes remain plagued by mold-infested surfaces that jeopardize their health.

Channel Park Homes “has not received the necessary post-Sandy remediation and is in urgent need of both remediation and new infrastructure to ensure safe and healthy living conditions,” according to the report released Tuesday by the Syosset-based anti-discrimination group.

Tuesday night, at an event where the group released its findings in Evangel Revival Community Church, Long Beach City Council member Anissa Moore noted that if officials had so neglected Channel Park residents then the adverse impact fell disproportionately on the city’s black population, an example, she said, of environmental racism.

Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism, said the findings in the report that show a lower-income community struggling to get services did not surprise her.

“We didn’t want this to be another Katrina where the African American community gets neglected,” she said, explaining how the group decided to launch the survey.

“Due to the lack of proper remediation, walls were exposed to infestation by roaches, mice and other vermin/rodents,” the report said, pinning responsibility on the Long Beach Public Housing Authority.

About 46 percent of residents participating in an ERASE Racism survey said at least one family member suffers from asthma. The group extrapolated from that data that over 11 percent of residents had asthma — much higher than the 7.3 percent rate for the general population, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Mike Cruz, housing authority executive director since January 2015, said his agency “has been proactive in trying to make sure that we are getting whatever Sandy money we are entitled to.”

Cruz said the report “is not fair” to the authority and understates repairs done in the 106-unit development since Sandy hit in October 2012.

The seven-page report recommended that local and state officials, who are distributing more than $4 billion of federal Department of Housing and Urban Development funds to help New Yorkers get back on their feet, “provide transparency in the amount and types of funds” devoted to repairs in Channel Park.

ERASE Racism’s assessment was conducted between November 2014 and February 2015, and is based on questionnaires completed by residents of the 66 homes there and observations by the group’s analysts.

Officials from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery said in a post-Sandy status report to HUD that “Channel Park Homes, a family development, experienced the greatest damage, including flooding on the first floor of homes and community facilities. The damage required mold remediation, replacement of floors and drywall, painting, replacement of appliances and kitchen cabinets, and repair or replacement of HVAC systems.”

But, of the 66 residents surveyed, 92 percent said their floor tiles were not replaced, 82 percent said that their kitchen cabinets were not replaced and 79 percent said their appliances, consisting of a refrigerator and stove, were not replaced, the report said.

Cruz said the housing authority’s “prior administration did do some work,” referring to the removal of drywall and cabinets.

“They did take care of a number of things, according to the maintenance superintendent,” Cruz said. “The new administration has been actively working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make sure they get the proper documentation.”

Melissa Miller, a 10-year Channel Park resident, said her home was disinfected almost immediately after Sandy, but her floor tiles and mold-infested cabinets have not been replaced.

“Since this hurricane thing happened, the apartment is not right,” she said, adding that she has tried to use bleach and disinfectant herself to cleanse the duplex, which had its ground floor flooded.

She said she was reimbursed for some of her ruined furniture, a sofa bed and love seat, through FEMA, and officials promised her that appliances like her refrigerator and stove would be replaced. But her stove and wooden cabinets remain unchanged.

“It’s just not right,” she said, adding that she shares the unit with her husband and two daughters. “They’re not treating us right over here.”

James Hutchinson, who has recently moved from the complex, said he began to suffer from bronchitis because his flooded apartment was not properly renovated.

“Everyone was complaining,” he said of neighbors who reached out to housing authority officials but got no response. “They didn’t do anything.”

Cruz was astonished when informed of the complaint Tuesday.

“Nobody has come to me to tell me this is the situation in their unit,” he said. “This is the first I’m hearing of it.”

ERASE Racism’s report also refuted state officials’ statements in a report to HUD officials that much of the required work in Channel Park had been done by November 2013 and only “some mitigation” was left to be done.

“Despite the State’s statement that, based on November 2013 information from the Long Beach Public Housing Authority (PHA), Channel Park Homes had been repaired and reoccupied and that only ‘some’ mitigation was now needed, ERASE Racism’s survey findings . . . not only exposed the lack of proper remediation post Superstorm Sandy, but the disproportionate burdens suffered by North Park residents,” the report said.

“In partnership with the Long Beach Public Housing Authority, the State will continue to make every effort to move this project forward,” Barbara Brancaccio, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, said in an email. She said $16 million has been allocated specifically to Channel Park Homes.

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