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Know Your Rights
Source: WABC-TV
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Tenants Blame Asthma Rates on Living Conditions

(New York -WABC, June 7, 2006) – A crackdown on landlords to make them more accountable for the living conditions of their residents. Residents in one neighborhood blame their asthma on the deplorable living conditions, which includes mold, mice and roaches. 

Kemberly Richardson got inside the building on Irving Avenue in Bushwick.  

It’s being called a problem of epidemic proportions. Hospitalization rates for asthma here in Bushwick are four times higher than the city-wide average.  

Sandra Longworth, Tenant: "When I sit down I get the wheezing. When I spit it up it’s real black."  

They say this is what’s making them sick: mice, roaches, rats, all running freely inside 211 Irving Avenue.  

Sandra Longworth, Tenant: "The roaches we get are usually much bigger but the cat helps us with that. The cat will take the big ones and play with them until they die. It sounds ugly but."  

There’s more. (Make the Road by Walking member) Monica Navarro says the dust and dirt inside her apartment caused her to develop asthma. Seven others here also have the illness. It’s a building where a mind-boggling 131 open violations exist, 100 are serious. It’s a place where tenants say the landlord does little to fix things.  

Monica Navarro, Tenant: "It’s always the money, ‘we need money for this, money for that,’ but they never, never come to fix it."  

And so along with dozens of asthma patients from other boroughs, they gathered to demand action from the city to reclassify mold, mice and roaches.

Irene Tung, ‘Make the Road by Walking’: "They’re classified as ‘b’ violations right now so it’s at the discretion of the inspector and so the city doesn’t have to come and do anything about it, and the violations pile up."  


The group also wants the city to pass the year-old Healthy Homes Act, which would crack down on negligent landlords. Next to the Bronx, Brooklyn ranks number two for asthma rates.  


Corri Freedman, American Lung Association: "People have less access to health care and asthma is a disease that can be controlled. No one should die from it; no one should be hospitalized if it’s controlled properly."  

Now all Monica worries about is not if, but when her one-year-old son will develop asthma.  

The landlord did not return our calls but a spokesperson for the Housing Preservation Department says it did visit that building and did do emergency repairs. The court is the only entity that has the authority to order a landlord to fix those problems, and if not, issue fines.