Today, ColorOfChange launched a campaign demanding that NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chairman John Rhea grant immediate rent relief to storm-impacted public housing residents that were left to suffer — for up to three weeks — without essential services in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. An initial flat-footed response by NYCHA dragged out the weeks until power could be safely restored. But now, NYCHA expects full rent payments upfront for both November and December, acknowledging no responsibility for the serious health, safety and financial toll its negligence continues to take on residents. NYCHA should be working around the clock to abate the needless suffering it has caused residents — not taking steps to compound it.
Please join us in demanding Chairman John Rhea immediately suspend rent collection for storm-impacted NYCHA residents, and credit payments already made. Read the email we sent to our members below.
Dear ColorOfChange.org member,
Last month, Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc across the New York metropolitan area. Millions of New Yorkers were affected by the storm, but few more severely than the city's public housing residents. 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.1,2 It's shameful.
NYCHA Chairman John Rhea has pledged to refund rent to storm-impacted residents at least for those days spent without essential services — but not until January 2013. In the meantime, NYCHA expects full rent payments upfront for both November and December, acknowledging no responsibility for the serious health, safety and financial toll its negligence continues to take on residents.
Today, NYC's most vulnerable public housing communities along the city's waterfront remain in peril. Officials' flat-footed response to initial flooding not only dragged out the weeks until power could be safely restored, but profoundly worsened the scope of the damage to residents' homes3 — throwing the city's long-standing economic and racial divides into the national spotlight.4
Low-and fixed-income NYCHA residents largely had no real alternative to hunkering down in their homes and praying for Sandy's worst to pass them by. For those without the financial means to leave the flood zone — or to afford lodging even if they could get themselves and their families out — evacuation was never an option.5 Others were simply too frail or ill to evacuate.6 NYCHA itself has also instilled a well-founded fear that residents who agreed to leave would return to find their homes rented or sold out from under them.7
After the storm, NYCHA, FEMA, and the Office of Emergency Management dragged their feet in pumping out flooded basements and ground floors and restoring basic services — as residents remained trapped inside damaged high-rise buildings running out of food, water and medication.8 Adding insult to injury, when NYCHA's out-of-touch Chairman finally got around to visiting residents in Red Hook — who by then had been struggling to survive without heat, running water or electricity for two weeks — he advised: "Hang in there. You're going to get a rent credit. It's a nice little Christmas present."9
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.10 Residents must also stretch these meager resources to cover new unexpected expenses, including replacing lost or damaged household items and clothing, as well as food lost as it rotted in powerless refrigerators.11 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.
Please join us to demand that NYCHA grant immediate rent relief to storm-impacted public housing residents. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same.
1. "Mayor’s tweet touting NYCHA power restoration draws fire," New York Daily News, 11-14-12
2. "NYCHA stuck in dark age," New York Daily News, 11-10-12
3. "Dangerous living conditions at public housing after Sandy," ABC Local (WABC New York), 11-14-12
4. "Revealing the Two New Yorks," Indypendent, 11-02-12
5. "The Hideous Inequality Exposed by Hurricane Sandy," The Atlantic, 10-30-12
6. "In the Eye of the Storm: Remembering the Most Vulnerable," Huffington Post, 11-02-12
7. "Activists Address Affordable Housing’s Disappearing Act" Chelsea Now, 11-28-12
8. “Sandy, Occupy, and the City’s Failures: A Storm of Controversy,” Village Voice, 11-07-12
9. "NYCHA head to powerless residents: ‘Hang in there,’" New York Daily News, 11-12-12
10. "Bloomberg’s Back-to-Work Imperative After Sandy Is the Broader Disaster," ColorLines, 11-02-12
11. "No Services, No Rent’: NYCHA Residents Call For Action in Sandy’s Wake," The Nation, 11-27-12