Projects Residents Sue NYCHA Over Alleged Blackmail

May 8, 2013 | Andy Cush

Some residents of the Smith Houses on the Lower East Side are suing NYCHA for something even more potentially nefarious than its enthusiasm for canceling repair requests. The lawsuit alleges the housing authority is purposely witholding repair funds in an effort to get projects residents on board with a plan to lease land on the Smith Houses property to independent developers, and will only fix serious problems in the apartments if tenants sign on.

“We feel NYCHA is holding residents hostage, forcing residents to support their plan whether it’s in their best interest or not,” Smith Houses Tenant Association president Aixa Torres. “We should not be at the mercy of a real estate deal.”

According to the lawsuit, NYCHA stopped work on roof repairs that were already funded after residents of the Smith Houses didn’t attend a meeting about the lease deal. The boycott came after NYCHA refused to meet with the tenant association.

Authority brass claims the repair work isn’t related to the development deal. “Our efforts to eliminate the backlog of open work orders are not at all linked to the land-lease plans,” said spokeswoman Sheila Stainback, adding that “NYCHA’s land-lease plan, through the revenue it would generate, would directly address these needs at Smith Houses.”