NYC lawmakers blast NYCHA’s ‘inadequate’ coronavirus response, including spotty cleaning protocols
The New York City Housing Authority has done a poor job cleaning apartment complexes and enforcing social distancing guidelines even though its residents are “uniquely vulnerable” to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a group of Big Apple lawmakers.
In a blistering Tuesday letter to NYCHA Chairman Gregory Russ, 11 members of the city’s Democratic congressional delegation said constituents have told them that the beleaguered Housing Authority isn’t following emergency protocols to clean its 71 senior-only buildings five times a week and its other buildings at least three times a week.
“Residents have reported that the common areas in their buildings are being cleaned only once per week,” reads the letter, which was organized by Manhattan Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Maloney and her colleagues said they’ve also heard that “large groups of people” have congregated in common areas of NYCHA buildings as recently as last week — even though Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio implemented strict social distancing protocols last month in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
The lawmakers charged NYCHA officials broke another promise by not reaching out to resident leaders about what’s being done to contain the virus in public housing units, even as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city top 72,000, with more than 3,200 deaths.
“We are disturbed,” the NYC pols wrote.
The lawmakers said NYCHA’s “inadequate” coronavirus response is particularly troubling since New Yorkers who live in public housing statistically have “much higher rates of asthma, diabetes and other underlying health conditions.”
“Moreover, NYCHA residents are uniquely vulnerable to infectious disease due to the high density of residents,” they wrote. “Consequently, it is crucial that NYCHA take, to the fullest extent, every possible precaution to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 in all of its sites.”
Barbara Brancaccio, NYCHA’s chief communications officer, didn’t deny the allegations, but claimed “health and safety" is the agency’s "top priority.”
“We took decisive action early in this crisis to implement a protocol to sanitize all of our buildings above and beyond Health Department guidance, and we have provided updates every 48 hours on this protocol, and all of our efforts, to the New York congressional delegation," Brancaccio said. “We will continue to stay in regular contact with the delegation.”
Last week, NYCHA said it was reducing its on-site staff to further implement social distancing. The authority also said it was suspending all in-person meetings between staff and residents.
Besides Maloney, the Tuesday letter was signed by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Jerry Nadler, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nydia Velazquez, Adriano Espaillat, Eliot Engel, Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng, Jose Serrano and Yvette Clarke.