DC 37 and Community Allies Fight Trump’s Public Housing Budget Cuts

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Photos Mike Lee

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

If the Trump administration has its way and slashes $6 billion from the budget of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, members like Mary Baez and La’Nette Murphy will have to continue to wait as the backlog of repairs at their New York City Housing Authority apartments gets thicker.

More than half of the funds to maintain NYCHA apartments–the largest housing authority in the country–comes from HUD.

The proposed budget cut would also terminate the Community Development Block Grant program. The grants help fund programs like Meals on Wheels, which delivers healthy meals to the homebound and elderly.

Baez is one of the more than 15,000 DC 37 members who live in apartments managed by NYCHA.

The Local 768 member has lived at the Alfred E. Smith Houses in the Lower East Side for 40 years and remembers the good old days. Back then, same day repair service was the norm.

“Those days are long gone,” said Baez, who also works as a Residential Watch Supervisor in the public housing complex.

La’Nette Murphy, a member of Local 372, lives at the Jacob E. Riis Houses also in the lower East Side. She’s tired of waiting so long for repairs and to have her apartment painted.

“We have 26 buildings and only a handful of workers, so you can’t blame the workers,” she said.  NYCHA has already cut back to only a handful of porters and maintenance workers at her sprawling complex, Murphy added.

Since the announcement of the federal budget DC 37, elected officials and housing activists have been rallying their members and constituents to get members of Congress to reject the Trump plan.

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DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido

 

“We’ve got the power to stop these cuts to HUD, just like the people organized against the cuts to the Affordable Care Act,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido at a rally against the cuts in front of Federal Plaza on April 20. “It’s our turn to send a message to Congress.”

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, who represents the 12th Congressional District, and

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Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney

Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, also attended the noon-time rally to denounce the budget cuts.

“These cuts would be a disaster for NYCHA,” Maloney told the crowd of activists at the rally.

“Is cutting Meals on Wheels, going to make America great again?” asked Congresswoman Velasquez.

In addition to delayed maintenance and repairs, the budget proposal would reduce Section 8 vouchers and direct rental assistance payments.

The housing program for seniors known as Section 202, would be reduced by nearly 10 percent. There are 41 NYCHA developments for seniors.

Housing subsidies for people with disabilities would be reduced by almost 20 percent.

NYCHA provides housing for more than 400,000 residents across the five boroughs. NYCHA also provides a network of community centers, senior centers, health-care centers and Head Start education centers. There are 1,000 DC 37 members who work in these facilities.

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the cloud of smoke was so intense it drifted east down to the Jacob Riis Houses, where Murphy lives. “You could smell the smoke in the air,” said Murphy, who left her windows in her 12th floor apartment closed for several weeks.

Residents of several housing projects along the East River, including the Riis Houses, also had to deal with the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

“I think we’ve dealt with enough already,” said Murphy, who is a member of the tenants association.  “But we’re going to keep on fighting.”

 

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