On Tuesday, October 23, members of Manhattan Center’s School of Social Work Social Action Group spoke at a City Council Housing Committee meeting, chaired by Lower East Side Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, on the complicated issue of “rightsizing” in New York city public housing.
“Rightsizing” is NYCHA’s policy of moving individuals and families into smaller apartments as their family size changes. Most of the people facing rightsizing are seniors who have raised families in their apartments, lived there for decades, and rely on the support system their immediate community provides. Meanwhile, thousands of young families wait for suitable apartments.
The Social Action Group had a lively one-hour meeting with Housing Chair Mendez before the hearing. They then moved to a packed hearing room where NYCHA representatives, City Council members, public housing tenants and advocacy groups spoke out on different sides of the policy. Many tenant, and their advocates, disputed NYCHA’s claim that no one has been evicted due to rightsizing policies. Social service providers, including School of Social Work students AVA FEVRIER and TERRELL ADEPOJU, provided testimony on the policy’s impact on fragile seniors who have long anchored their communities.
Hurricane Sandy has since revealed and created more pressing problems within NYCHA, but “rightsizing” remains an compelling issues for many seniors.
Ava Fevrier’s statement:
We are all here because we are aware and understand the challenges of having two vulnerable populations who need our help.
We have the residents who have lived in their NYCHA apartments for years; some over 20 years. Not only have these apartments become their homes and safe havens this group of people have become part of a network; a network of friendship, they are patients of nearby medical facilities and part of communities that they helped build and continue to nurture. They need our support more than anything.
On the other hand there are over 160,000 families awaiting adequate, stable, and comfortable apartments to secure their family systems. Some are cramped in one bedroom apartments where tensions run high and stress is heightened. All they are asking for is a more suitable place for everyone to feel as sense of home.
Nothing is wrong with what these two groups are asking. What’s wrong is that they’re not getting it. I want to focus on what we’re going to do about it; I want to help find a solution and put it into action.
One of the things I first thought about was policy and regulation enforcement. Is there enough oversight, to ensure that rightsizing is done in a strategic manner, other than in this chaotic push from succumbing to the pressure of increased housing concerns in the city?
There should be a better system to match the candidates who are willing to rightsize and the families who need adequate housing. There needs to be a case by case review method in which the result should be in the best interest of the individuals and the families.
Some, maybe most, of the letters generated and mailed out are being ignored.
What about having social service providers strategically make visits to effectively communicate and inform those who are reluctant to move of their options? Instead of making them feel they are being kicked out of their homes.
Lastly, there needs to be more oversight and stricter enforcement for a higher standard to be set for all NYCHA buildings to be safe and properly kept for it’s tenants and I believe you may have more cooperation when it comes to rightsizing. People understand better when things are properly explained to them, when you listen to them, and when you make them part of the process.
Terrell Adepoju’s statement:
Good afternoon my name is Terrell Adepoju. I am a master of social work student at Adelphi University and a member of the Social Action Group at Adelphi University’s Manhattan Center. I want to thank the city council and committee, chair Ms. Mendez for allowing us to come and testify today. I live in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn and I know some people who live in public housing. After speaking with some of the senior residents I learned that there is a resident member on the NYCHA board and some of the residents feel that they need an advocate that knows and understands the unique needs of seniors.
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