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Community groups, residents rally for city construction at Red Hook Houses to stop during pandemic

Posted at 6:26 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 18:26:03-04

RED HOOK, Brooklyn — One New York City Housing Authority development in Brooklyn as turned into an unlivable construction zone since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, residents said.

Red Hook Houses residents called Tuesday for a stop to all construction. City officials said there is a good reason for the construction. It’s all part of the Sandy Resiliency and Renewal Program, designed to lessen the community's vulnerability to natural disasters. The project is funded with $550 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

We like that the work is being done ,but you don’t have to kill us to get there,” said Vanessa McBride, a longtime resident.

Council Member Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn agreed with angry residents and said the timing, during a pandemic, couldn’t be worse.

“It’s about humanity. They turn off the water during a pandemic? You have to talk to the people. It's about respect,” said Menchaca.

Tenant leaders said they want a full-time construction liaison on site to keep residents informed about all work being done.

Karen Blondel has lived at the Red Hook Houses for more than 30 years and said the piles of soil covered with tarps, trash and pools of dirty water are making her development a health hazard. She’s even documented the rat problems on her Facebook page.

‘We fully support the community’s demands for more community oversight, transparency, and additional health and safety measures to be put in place during NYCHA’s construction project,” said Catherine McBride, the director of Community Building Red Hook Initiative.

A spokesperson for NYCHA called the construction "the culmination of years of meetings with residents, community leaders and other stakeholders."

"Since 2014, a year before the Authority received the FEMA funds in December 2015, we have fully incorporated resident input at every stage. We worked with seniors to find a location out of the flood zone for a new senior center and fully renovate it, participated in over 182 meetings related to the investment of the $550 million FEMA funds, including design charrettes hosted at the local community center and schools, and we posted over 25,000 flyers specific to this project and the impacts of construction," the spokesperson said." "Red Hook Houses, due to its size and complexity, poses unique challenges. As a result, we phased the construction into smaller projects, such as the senior center and retail stores renovations, in order to mitigate the impacts, and then followed up with full roof replacements at all residential buildings. The remaining work can now continue without the additional impact of the completed work. We understand the impacts of this investment are inconvenient to residents, but we are thankful for the $550 million our elected officials secured for these critical infrastructure upgrades, including new heat and hot water systems and full backup generators, to protect the residents and these buildings for the next generation of NYCHA residents. More information about this project can be found here, including the project overview, community meeting presentations, air monitoring results, FAQ and more.”

Watch the rally below: