Elderly and special needs residents living in New York City Housing Authority high rises were stuck inside their apartments for weeks after Hurricane Sandy. A New York Times examination published on Sunday found 77,000 public housing residents were without power, heat or running water — some for up to three weeks.
The New York Times found that while the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) moved aggressively to evacuate residents before the storm, they were “woefully unprepared to help its residents deal with Hurricane Sandy’s lingering aftermath.”
The city, which did not enforce its mandatory evacuation order, could not assess the medical needs of residents stuck atop darkened, freezing towers until nearly two weeks after the storm. It relied on ragtag bands of volunteers who quickly found themselves overwhelmed by the task of reaching, comforting and caring for trapped residents. And the seemingly simplest things, like towing portable lighting towers into the Red Hook public housing complex, took 11 days, all because the housing authority had not properly prepared for a major disaster.
Again and again, city officials publicly predicted that the crisis in public housing was on the verge of being resolved, contributing to a perception at City Hall that there was no need to mobilize an extensive effort to provide medical care.
The report included accounts of tenants in wheelchairs who had no way of getting downstairs, diabetics who needed insulin, others who were simply short on food or using stoves to stay warm.
ColorOfChange, the nation’s largest online black civil rights organization has launched a petition urging NYCHA Chairman John Rhea to grant immediate rent relief to storm-impacted public housing residents.
NYCHA Chairman Rhea has pledged to refund rent to storm-impacted residents at least for those days spent without essential services — but not until January 2013.
“35,000 mostly low-income Black and Latino children, families, and elderly and sick residents of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) were left to suffer — in cold, pitch-black apartments without running water — for up to three weeks,” read an email sent to ColorOfChange members on Monday.
“Before Sandy hit, NYCHA residents were already among the lowest-income folks in the five boroughs and, due to lost work hours caused by business closures and massive transit disruptions, many are now coping with even less,” [the email continued.](http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/NYCHA_rent/
The ColorOfChange email ends by pointing members to the petition. “Now that the storm has passed, John Rhea should be working around the clock to abate the needless suffering NYCHA has caused residents — not taking steps to compound it.”