A forsaken Harlem man and his 14-year-old son are living in a hell NYCHA has inflicted on them.
Water has been a constant issue at the tiny family’s King Towers apartment — flowing behind the walls, blowing out the bathroom light and causing plaster to flake and collapse throughout the apartment. As a result, the kitchen cabinet leaned precariously off the wall. Electric wall sockets in every room except one ceased to function.
The father — a 46-year-old maintenance man who spoke to the Daily News on the condition of anonymity because his teenage son was embarrassed by the squalor — has had to shave in the living room for years because the lights in his bathroom don’t work.
Finally, in December, a New York City Housing Authority crew arrived at his apartment and replastered and rewired everything. The crew removed his entire kitchen — the cabinets, the sink and the countertop, and promised to replace it all in two weeks.
Last week, the tenant stood in a kitchen with no cabinets or countertop.
The NYCHA crew that four months earlier had promised to fix his apartment woes has yet to return, work orders and other documents The News reviewed show.
The tenant was given a temporary laundry slop sink, but he can’t use it for dishes because it collects runoff from his washing machine. He cleans his dishes in his bathtub — which he can’t use for bathing because NYCHA removed the shower enclosure.
“This has been going on for years,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “They’re aware. They’re aware.”
After The News inquired about his situation, NYCHA spokeswoman Zodet Negron said the agency would look into his case.
The agency will find what one Legal Aid Society attorney called “deplorable living conditions” that should disturb officials in the upper ranks of the agency.
The tenant had no heat in his bedroom for nearly five years, according to work orders The News reviewed.
A hole under the sink offered a convenient portal to his apartment for an army of vermin.
For four years, the tenant lived without any working electrical outlets — with no power at all in his bathroom.
An upstairs pipe burst in 2013 and wasn’t fixed for three days. That allowed enough water to pour down and destroy much of the plaster in his ceilings and walls.
The King Towers tenant is a victim of a persistent problem that has plagued NYCHA for years — an inability to coordinate serious repairs for the authority’s 178,000 apartments.
In the past year, the time it takes for so-called “trade” repairs that require electricians, plumbers, plasterers, painters, carpenters and others has slipped badly.
NYCHA appears to have set an unrealistic goal of completing these repairs within 15 days. Of the 11 types of trade repairs, it has hit the target this year in only two: exterminators and basic maintenance.
The average number of days it takes a carpenter to get a job done is now 105, up from 70 last year. Plasterers average 112 days, up from 83 last year. Painters have held steady at 93 days.
NYCHA spokeswoman Negron noted the wait times for simple repairs like changing light bulbs and fixing doorjambs has dropped to an average of five days. Trade repairs are more complicated, and the shortage of some skilled workers leads to further delays.
“NYCHA is deeply committed to improving the quality of service we provide our residents,” Negron said. “We are aggressively working to improve skilled trade service times as well.”
The King Towers tenant has been withholding his rent for nearly two years, hoping it would inspire NYCHA to address his many problems. Recently, he enlisted Legal Aid to represent him in Housing Court, hoping its attorneys can help him force the agency to address the abysmal conditions.
“We’ve seen all sorts of horror stories from our work with NYCHA residents across the city, but this abhorrent case should keep the highest rungs of NYCHA awake at night,” Legal Aid attorney Ilan Norwood said. “NYCHA’s neglect is outrageous, and it’s incredible that our client would suffer years of deplorable living conditions because of NYCHA’s blatant disregard for providing the most basic services.”
The tenant said the final straw came in December with the gutting of his kitchen.
“I haven’t had a Thanksgiving here in years,” he said. “We used to have them all the time.”