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Know Your Rights
Source: NY1
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

Community Group Rallies For Asthma-Free Homes

Health Department figures show one out of every eight New Yorkers has asthma, and people in poorer neighborhoods are far more likely to have the disease – one reason is the buildings where they live. NY1’s Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.

For 10-year old Tony Coleman, these bagsful of medicine are just part of life.

“I have to take my asthma pump with the chamber and actually, I have two asthma pumps,” he says.

Tony and his older brother Andrew are both asthmatic; a condition they believe is aggravated by living in a building infested with mold, dust, rodents and roaches.

“I’m sneezing all the time. I’m coughing in my sleep, can’t go to sleep,” says Andrew. “It’s ridiculous. I can’t breathe in my own house. ”

In the Colemans’ apartment there are patches of mold in the bathroom and living room, cracks where dust comes into the boys’ room and evidence of pests in the kitchen.

Tony and Andrew stood outside their building with their mother Monday at a rally sponsored by the Coalition for Asthma-Free Homes (Make the Road by Walking is a member of the Coalition.)

The coalition is calling for:

  • Stricter and clearer guidelines for dealing with mold, insects and rodents

  • Tougher penalties for violations

  • Letting tenants know about their rights

  • Better training so landlords, supers and inspectors can tell when mold is a problem

“The environment is a key player in causing asthma, and mold, cockroaches, mice and rats have to be taken care of,” says Dr. Lester Blair of New York Downtown Hospital. “There is no other option.”

The tenants’ association says at least half of the apartments at 10 Stanton have problems that need to be addressed, but, according to residents, the building’s management office – located in the lobby of 10 Stanton Street – is often closed during hours it is supposed to open.

“There is no connection, there is no communication and unfortunately, we get the runaround,” says Alicia Coleman, Tony and Andrew’s mother.

The managing agent was not available for an interview but released a statement, saying, “We will inspect all of the apartments and find out what the problem is. We will work from there.”

In the meantime, the Colemans will continue to live life as usual.

“After a while, I just get used to it,” says Andrew. “I just try and take the meds, do what the doctor tells me to do and just troop on, just keep going.”