Baez v. New York City Housing Authority
More than 400,000 New Yorkers live in public housing, and many of those residents, including children, have chronic asthma and other health conditions that are aggravated by mold and moisture in their homes. Making matters worse, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the agency that owns and manages public housing in the city, has a history of failing to make timely and effective repairs when residents report problems.
So, in December 2013, NRDC alongside our clients Manhattan Together, South Bronx Churches and lawyers from the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), filed a class-action lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—which includes protections for those who have an impairment of any major life function, like breathing—on behalf of NYCHA residents who suffer from the effects of unabated mold and excessive moisture in their apartments.
In April 2014, a federal district court judge approved a settlement of the lawsuit, requiring NYCHA to remediate mold and moisture promptly and at the source, and to improve its handling of requests for accommodation under the ADA. But by the following year, it was obvious that NYCHA was not complying with the court’s order. Along with pro bono co-counsel, NRDC and our partners stepped in again, this time filing a motion to enforce the settlement order. When, in December 2015, the court found that NYCHA had been out of compliance with the ordered settlement agreement from day 1, the judge appointed a special master to work with the parties and other partners like Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Services to identify the steps that the agency needed to take.
In April 2018, seeing little improvement in NYCHA’s performance, NRDC, NCLEJ, Quinn Emmanuel, and other pro bono attorneys asked the court to approve an amended settlement agreement, featuring improvements to protocols and reporting, as well as the appointment of data and mold experts, and an ombudsperson who is empowered to address individual tenants’ concerns if NYCHA fails to make adequate and timely repairs.
In September 2018, more than 50 NYCHA tenants appeared at a public hearing on the proposed settlement. They, and hundreds of others that submitted written comments, described the severe health hazards in their apartments. The court approved the revised settlement that November, and appointed independent data and mold analysts in June 2019. Finally, in September 2019, the court appointed an ombudsperson. In December 2020, the terms of both independent analysts and the ombudsperson were extended until the end of 2021, with the possibility of additional extensions. The Ombudsperson Call Center is available to residents of all NYCHA developments who are dealing with unresolved mold and moisture problems.
NEW YORK (December 15, 2015) – A federal judge today ruled the New York City Housing Authority has failed to provide timely and sufficient repairs to rampant mold and moisture problems in public housing that aggravate tenants’ asthma, as required by a settlement reached with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice two years ago.
Settlement Agreement Promises Big Changes in City Response to Major Health Threat