building stairwell imageA NYCHA building in Brooklyn. A rookie cop, gun drawn, finger on the trigger, opening the door to find a pitch-black stairwell. A sound in the darkness. A gunshot. A ricocheting bullet. A dead unarmed teenager. Police violence against an unarmed African-American. An arrest. A trial. A verdict. Guilty. Case closed. Justice done?

One life lost. Another one about to be.

Lives destroyed in NYCHA buildings because they are housing projects without safeguards and so without safety for the people who live there and the police charged with maintaining order.

Vertical policing it’s called. A must according to the Mayor. But no lights and pitch-black stairwells. Does that make sense?

A rookie cop working in a NYCHA building…in housing projects that cause one in every four crimes in the entire city of more than 8 million people. So who gets the assignment? The most inexperienced police. Insufficient training according to union officials. No training in CPR. The same thing takes place in our school system: put the rookie teachers in schools that serve those communities. That’s the way it’s done. Put the most inexperienced public employees in jobs requiring the most knowledge and experience. That’s the system at work and failure doesn’t change it.

How long will the men and women who hold public office in New York City continue to ignore the half a million people who live in NYCHA buildings? Probably forever.

Babies are killed in cross-fire shootings. Little children are shot crossing streets. The buildings still have crumbling roofs, broken ceilings, water leaks that cause black mold, highest asthma rates in the city, broken plumbing, no security systems and pitch-black stairwells and hallways where tragedy awaits.

Congressmen and women, Assemblymen and women, State Senators, City Council members. Party affiliation doesn’t matter. Federal money, state money paying rents to the city.

Every now and then something happens that causes us to believe that someone cares and will do something. But then, nothing.

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer issues an audit that calls NYCHA officials liars…says that they are lying when they report that they are fixing the backlog of 400,000 reported problems in those buildings. There is no response. There is no change in behavior. The matter disappears.

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issues an audit of the New York State Division of Housing and Urban Affairs trying to find out what happened to the $50 million it received to assist in fixing the roofs of many of the NYCHA buildings. Another grant of $50 million waiting in the wings. DiNapoli’s audit reveals that the agency didn’t know what happened to those millions, didn’t know whether any roofs had been repaired, couldn’t find evidence of any action or where the money is.

Two major officials – doing their job – revealed how little NYCHA was doing…and that was that. Silence. When asked about these abuses, Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman’s office said that criminality had to be brought to them before action could be taken. Isn’t that his job?

Councilman Ritchie Torres
Councilman Ritchie Torres
Some months ago, a young city councilman, Ritchie Torres of the Bronx made news by issuing a challenge to NYCHA officials to correct the flaming abuses of their administration. It seemed that the people of NYCHA had finally found someone who cared. He spoke out bravely and intelligently. He was angry at the abuses and made no secret of it.

And then he went silent. At recent meetings his comments were mildly supportive of the very people he had been challenging. What happened Mr. Torres? Who reached you? Who made you a supporter of these abuses? A man no longer angry and concerned but someone who had quickly learned to look the other way. What did it take?

There is every reason to believe that the corruption surrounding NYCHA has been going on for so long and is so widespread that nothing good will ever be done for one-fifth of the population of New York. That what exists today will continue to exist until the buildings no longer become habitable and will then be sold off to private real estate interests just waiting for that day. It has already started.

Trying to find the names of those who contribute campaign money to every single politician in New York City is extremely difficult. Dummy corporations are established to shield the contractors who are making hundreds of millions of dollars on NYCHA contracts whether they do the work or not.

Every time a young police officer opens a hallway door to a pitch-black stairwell, he or she faces danger – and they know it. Their weapons are drawn, their fingers on the trigger. They are young and inexperienced like former officer Peter Liang and his partner so shocked by what happened that they completely failed to take any proper procedures. Now those stairwells are lit but look what it took to turn the lights on.

Mr. Mayor, Mr. Police Commissioner why send your young police officers into pitch-black stairwells in buildings where crime – like mold – is everywhere. When will all those stairwells and hallways be lit? When will all those security lights and cameras that work and continue to work, be placed in every single one of those housing project buildings? Promises made not kept. Two lives destroyed because of the depraved indifference to the people of NYCHA.

Dangerous slums throughout the greatest city in the world? Do they make New York City great?

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