NYCHA should be Council candidates’ priority, say tenants

Two NYCHA tenant leaders say the candidates for the open 17th district City Council seat should put some focus on badly needed repairs in public housing.

By Patrick Donachie. Marlene Winston watches the candidates forum at the Bronxworks Classic Center in Melrose on Jan. 27.
By Patrick Donachie. NYCHA resident Marlene Winston watches the candidates forum at the Bronxworks Classic Center in Melrose on Jan. 27.

Council hopefuls barely mentioned NYCHA repair backlogs, they say

In a classroom at the BronxWorks Classic Center in Melrose, NYCHA residents Danny Barber and Marlene Winston sat alone, watching the candidates forum broadcast live on BronxNet, waiting to hear the City Council hopefuls define their stands on the issues. Winston shook her head.

“They’re not going to mention anything about NYCHA,” she said.

Barber, 46, and Winston, 59, were the only two viewers at the community center to sit through the whole three-hour, televised debate which took place in Mott Haven. They were particularly eager to know what the how candidates proposed to tackle the issues facing their fellow NYCHA residents.

“I want to hear what’s going in the line item for public housing,” said Barber, tenant leader at Jackson Houses.

During outgoing Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo’s 10 years in office, the pace of repair work has been glacial in Melrose Houses, said Winston, who has lived in the complex for 15 years. Repairs to the neighborhood’s general infrastructure have been similarly slow to non-existent, she complained. But many of the panelists’ questions and candidates’ answers focused on housing affordability and market-rate development, with scant mention of NYCHA’s endemic problems.

“Maria says she fixed our sidewalks. Look outside; the sidewalks are the same,” Winston said. “We’re always getting the short end of the stick as far as repairs.”

Barber issued a warning for the incoming candidate, whoever it may be.

“This is a special election. Whoever wins, if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, you’re gonna see this face,” he said, chuckling and pointing at himself. “I’m gonna run, and I’m gonna win.”

Barber chalked up the sparse attendance at the well-publicized viewing party to the community’s frustration with South Bronx politics-as-usual.

“They don’t want to come out because they say nothing’s gonna change,” he said. “And I tend to agree, but if you want to make a change, you’ve got to start somewhere.”

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