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Queensbridge residents sue NYCHA

Residents of Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City filed a lawsuit against the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) this past week.
The suit seeks to force NYCHA to fix hazardous living conditions that plague the public housing complex, including asbestos, lead paint, mold, leaks, and backed-up trash shoots.
Residents argue the conditions became even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent statewide stay-at-home orders. The suit also charges NYCHA with failing to conduct regular COVID-19 cleanings throughout the buildings in the largest public housing project in the Western Hemisphere.
“Any type of repairs that need to be done in my house, I have to wait forever to get them done,” said Marilyn Keller, a 58-year-old resident. “I put the ticket in, then NYCHA calls me back to tell me the date they are coming.
“So I prepare for the appointment, take everything out of the closet and cabinets, and ask for the day off from work but then they never come,” she continued. “They are a bunch of no-shows.”
Many of the tenants suing are older residents, including 72-year-old Pamela Wheeler.
“I am tired of living with mice, roaches, waterbugs, lack of heat, holes in my walls and sink, waterlogged and rotting cabinets, and many more repair issues that are a threat to my health and safety and an affront to my dignity,” Wheeler said. “NYCHA never repairs anything when I file a ticket, and it is so frustrating.”
The residents are working with the Justice For All Coalition, an organization that offers legal assistance to community groups in Astoria, Long Island City, and other parts of western Queens.
Residents then sought legal representation from Queens Legal Services, which filed the lawsuit on their behalf.
“For too long, NYCHA residents have suffered uninhabitable conditions due to neglect and lack of funding,” said Robert Sanderman, senior staff attorney at the Queens Legal Services Tenant Rights Coalition, who is representing the tenants. “There is little incentive for NYCHA to complete the repairs since the city will not record violations or pursue civil penalties against NYCHA for the numerous violations of the housing maintenance code.
“A great number of NYCHA residents are people of color who are also essential workers and are at high risk of health complications due to COVID-19,” he added. “These NYCHA residents are demanding systemic changes in the way they are neglected and ignored on account of their racial, social and economic status.”

Rob MacKay, Author

“Historic Houses of Queens” by Rob MacKay is an in-depth history of notable Queens homes that examines their architecture, interior design, surrounding neighborhoods, peculiarities, and personalities.
His interest in writing this book grew after he became a trustee of the Queens Historical Society in 2018.
“The 20th century brought even more construction and inhabitants, including many African-Americans, Eastern European Jews, Italians, Asians, and Latinos,” said MacKay. “Phenomena from this period include Beaux Arts architecture, government-run housing projects, restrictive covenants, sidewalk driveways, and McMansions.”
MacKay visited Addisleigh Park, where many prominent African Americans lived, such as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, WEB Dubois, civil rights leader Percy Ellis Sutton, as well as many famous jazz musicians.
“Queens was very open to African-American homeowners, and the borough has a middle-class African-American history dating back to when Flushing was an end stop on the Underground Railroad,” he said.
McKay collected over 200 images for the book, which explores several landmarked districts and more than 50 significant houses, with the oldest dating back to the mid-1660s.
“The photo on the cover of the book was actually a never-before-seen picture of a house that used to be in the Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead that resides near the oldest house in Queens,” said McKay.
MacKay is also director of Public Relations, Marketing and Tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation.
“Because of my job, some of the houses are museums where I was able to talk to the museum directors,” he said. “Most of the images came from the subjects, but Queens Public Library also provided many images.
“I reached out to different people and it’s nice to meet people that love history,” McKay added. “It was nice to see humans helping other humans.”

To purchase “Historic House of Queens” visit arcadiapublishing.com.

Author pens book about historic homes of Queens

A new book explores the notable homes across the borough of Queens.
Historic Houses of Queens was written by Rob MacKay, who currently works for the Queens Economic Development Corporation. His interest in writing the book
grew after he became a trustee of the Queens Historical Society.
Queens boasts a rich history that includes dozens of poorly publicized, but historically impressive, houses.
A mix of farmsteads, mansions, seaside escapes, and architecturally significant dwellings, the homes were owned by America’s forefathers, nouveau riche industrialists, Wall Street tycoons, and prominent African American entertainers from the Jazz Age.
Rufus King, a senator and the youngest signer of the US Constitution, operated a
large family farm in Jamaica, while piano manufacturer William Steinway lived in a 27-room, granite and bluestone Italianate villa in Astoria.
Musicians whose homes are still standing in the borough include Louis Armstrong,
Count Basie, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lena Horne.
Through more than 200 photographs, Historic Houses of Queens explores the homes’ architecture, owners, surrounding neighborhoods, and peculiarities.
All the while, MacKay considers that real humans lived in them. They grew up in them. They relaxed in them. They proudly showed them to friends and family. And in some cases, they lost them to fire, financial issues or urban renewal projects.
“This is a true labor of love,” said MacKay, who lives in Sunnyside. I spent a countless weekends on research and writing,” said MacKay, who lives in Sunnyside. “But it was worth it. Queens is such a special place, and its history is absolutely fascinating. It’s an honor and a pleasure to share this information with readers.”

Historic Houses of Queens is currently available on Arcadia Publishing’s website.

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