The living conditions in some subsidized apartments in the Bronx were found to be the worst in the city in terms of air quality, mold and infestation problems.
According to a survey conducted by State Senator Jeff Klein, State Senator Jose Serrano, Assemblyman Victor Pichardo and Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, one-third of the worst subsidized buildings in the city can be found in the Bronx, which may explain the unusually high number of Legionnaire’s disease cases in the borough during the summer.
During the outbreak, 12 people died and 120 people became ill in the South Bronx. The report, which compiled a “dirty dozen” list of the buildings that had the most violations in the city, found that four Bronx developments (Andrews Plaza, Stevenson Towers, Lewis Morris Apartments and Stevenson Commons) had a combined 97 pest violation and 115 mold violations.
The four buildings accounted for 45 percent of the 466 violations that were handed out to the city’s 12 worst buildings. Mold and cockroach infestation are known asthma triggers. This may explain the high rates of asthma hospitalizations in the borough, particularly in the South Bronx.
“It is no wonder that The Bronx has suffered a disproportionate number of Legionnaires’ cases, when you look at these subsidized buildings left in fetid conditions. This filth is scientifically connected to asthma and other respiratory illnesses, which also leave residents at a higher risk for Legionnaires’, and numerous other diseases.
“Unscrupulous landlords are giving these tenants squalor for our dollar and it’s unacceptable. Leaving residents in taxpayer subsidized buildings wallpapered in mold and crawling with roaches and mice is simply not going to be tolerated,” said Senator Klein.
“Many of the chronic ailments seen in The Bronx — such as asthma and other respiratory conditions — can be linked to mold and other deplorable living conditions that many residents are forced to live with,” added Senator Serrano.
The investigation was an offshoot of a November 2014 report that found that several landlords of subsidized buildings in the Bronx violated city laws by failing to provide sufficient heat to tenants during the winter months. The report’s recommendations include the establishment of a mold and pest task force that monitors buildings with five or more violations in two years, allowing the Department of Health to deal with cockroach infestations and giving the city the power to impose civil fines on repeat violators.
The report comes two months after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued emergency regulations for stopping the spread of Legionnaire’s disease. The directives, which came as the Legionella outbreak was starting to fade, required building owners to register and test their cooling towers.