Art and Activism - Hearing the Cries and Concerns from NYCHA residents

More that 470,000 New York City residents live in public housing around the five boroughs, meaning that 1 in 18 people in the city live in one of the NYCHA [New York City Housing Authority] residences.

With the news cycle talking about immigration caravans, displaced children and voter suppression, [all important issues] what many don’t know is that…

10,000’s of our neighbors are going without heat, hot water, are being poisoned by lead paint in their apartments, all while not being given access to the same legal and social support that most private citizens take for granted

Some residents from the Gowanus Houses are using art to help residents organize and raise awareness around these systemic and widespread issues facing so many of our neighbors.

Recently, Trellis sent a few of our Red Hook Reporters to cover, Soft, the latest performance from The Theater of the Liberated, highlighting the stories and struggles of public housing residents

I learned a lot, but some things I had already known. It’s sad to hear that housing and housing authority treat people so poorly when they’re in need. I’ve learned all about how things such as mold, toxic water, damaged pipes and a lot more is not only getting dozens sick but killing people as well. I myself have went through this with my mom and lost a sister due to the molding in our old apartment. It gave my sister a rare case of lung sickness and my family was broken. It was the worst ever and my mom got no help from housing or it’s authority.

Today I learned that in housing residents have complained about water. A serious issue that has made millions sick due to lead poisoning. This is of course involving old rusty and manipulated pipes that’s some haven’t even been changed in 20-30 years!!! Also things such as paint chipping and exposed chemical renovation has gave people and still is giving them sicknesses such as cancer. Karen Blondel [a resident and activist in Red Hook] sure speaks about her like being here since 1982 and how she’s seen her fair share of housing and it’s changed both negative and positive . But since we are at a state of being neglected and put last by the company residents live in, most of the conversation was negativity and how we can change it as a community to better it for us and more generations to come!!

ShaiAnn Gilmore is a junior at Brooklyn Frontiers High School and a Red Hook Reporter

It was fun watching the play and the raffle going on. Knowing that mold could grow for more than 8 years is yuck. I also learned the way they handled taking care of the mold was not the right way. They let the mold sit which could release spores into the air and,that’s a bad thing which affects your health and could put you in serious conditions. She should've taken photos because if this case turned into a lawsuit they could have seen her conditions eventually giving her the upper hand of the case. If not before she could’ve checked with her doctor seeing the symptoms of the mold in her house. If she has gone through any symptoms she could inform her lawyer with a doctor's check up of her health which also makes part of the lawsuit go higher. She had already informed her tenant association which they only gave her money to keep her mouth shut which is flat out wrong.

Lavel McCllelan is a freshman at John Jay High School and a Red Hook Reporter

In this event there were themes based on “what happens when u put in a ticket for housing” and in the play there was a lot of irony and different levels of serious based and also funny creativity going on in one. That being said in this play it was based on real world authenticity.

Karen Blondel was an Red Hook resident, living in Red Hook since 1982. She says ever since she moved here it’s been the same results for putting in a housing ticket for plumbing, leaks, mold, plaster, etc. The housing workers would come and look at it not doing anything, make you sign this form saying that they did what they had to do to fix the problem. You would have to call or report for another ticket and they would have to wait for the workers to come back. In a real life situation I hear some say sometimes housing doesn’t even pick up your ticket they leave there for days even weeks sometimes months.

Karen goes on to talk about Gowanus and Red Hook sharing the Gowanus Canal and how it is infested with bacteria and lead growing in our baseball fields and in our water, and also mold growing rapidly in Red Hook apartments. I have been living in Red Hook for about 14 years and going to such an event, I learned new things about a community I lived in for such awhile really suprises me! As a community we should try to help and build a better one together for the sake of our lives and new generation. I learned a lot it was such a interesting experience.

Shamiyah Gilmore is a junior at Edward R Murrow and a Red Hook Reporter

What can you do?

  • Press your elected officials to continue to hold NYCHA accountable to the legal and necessary changes they have to address in residences around the city. Find out who your official is and…

    • Make a call, send an email, tag them on social media and ask the about it

  • Hold your elected officials accountable in desegregating 311 [NYCHA residents can’t use it, certificate of no-harrasment, again not available to them, the right to withhold rent when basic services are not being provided]

    • Again, publicly ask your officials about these things at meetings, through emails and on social media

  • If you have friends in public housing, ask them their stories and with permission, share their struggles in your network

Advocacy involves speaking up and out about issues that might not affect you directly but are important to you because they affect people you know

Want to know more? Email us