by Tanyanika Samuels for The New York Daily News
March 30, 2012
A girl in a pink-painted bedroom sits on a bunkbed wearing an airmask over her nose, clutching a machine to help her breathe.
The image is one of nearly two dozen photographs featured in the new exhibit, How The Other Half (Still) Lives: Bloomberg's Legacy?
"They're amazing photographs that show the beauty and strength of people who are basically being condemned to deteriorating health because of the city's lack of will to truly fix these problems," said Marielys Divanne, lead organizer with South Bronx Churches and Manhattan Together, the community organizing groups sponsoring the exhibit, running Friday through April 6 at the Bronx Documentary Center, 614 Courtlandt Ave.
Several public housing tenants are expected to tell their stories at Friday's opening reception, and some will open their homes for a tour.
One resident, Marabel Baez, has been living in the Melrose Houses for four years.
Six months after moving in, a leak started in her bathroom that warped the ceiling and walls, and sent plaster crashing to the floor. Then came the mold.
Baez, 42, who said she's never had asthma or breathing issues, now takes medication for respiratory problems.
"It's just not fair for me and the other tenants to live like this," said Baez, adding that she waited two years for a repairman who simply painted over the problem. Now the walls are puckering again and the mold is back.
Officials at the New York City Housing Authority said they're tackling the repair backlog head on and starting to see results. A recently formed task force completed 6% more work orders in 2011 than in 2010.
"(We) work unceasingly to address all requests for repair and maintenance at our 2,604 buildings," NYCHA officials said in a statement. "The reality is that buildings that are 40 to 70-years old are aging structures that require a great deal of repair, for which the Authority receives inadequate funding. We have not allowed that to deter us in seeking a solution."
But Rev. Francis Skelly of Immaculate Conception Church in Melrose is frustrated.
He's visited scores of apartments while working with South Bronx Churches, an affiliate of Metro NY Industrial Areas Foundation Leaders .
"I've seen these conditions for myself," he said. "It's not a healthy environment. We want action. As these photos show, it is time to stop making excuses."