NYC public housing claims it’s going green, but stymies residents’ green efforts
To its credit, the New York City Housing Authority (popularly known as NYCHA) launched an effort five years ago to “go green.” “NYCHA is going green,” its website announces, by focusing on recycling, energy efficiency, and community gardens.
And the website is about all the help NYCHA is offering to public-housing residents. But as The New York Times reports, “many residents say the agency has failed to follow through. The agency, they say, has not been supportive of residents’ efforts and has in some circumstances stood in their way.”
Residents are encouraged to recycle, but:
[M]ore than half of the 334 public housing projects in the city have no recycling bins, according to agency documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request. That may help explain why the recycling rate is so low in neighborhoods with a large number of public housing projects — in the South Bronx, home to 14 projects, the rate is just under 5 percent.
Margarita López, a New York City Housing Authority commissioner who leads the agency’s environmental initiatives, said the collection rate was low because in most projects it was easier to throw recyclables in the regular trash.
The agency “has chutes in every floor where people put their garbage through that chute, and they do not separate the recycling material,” Ms. López said. “We have no choice but to encourage people to bring the recycling down to the first floor of buildings. We have no choice but to tell people that this is something you must do for the quality of life and for themselves.”
They’re allowed to start gardens, but:
On a recent Saturday, Ashley Paniagua walked down a brick pathway that snaked between the towering Manhattanville Houses in Harlem, and headed toward a small garden she had helped plant months earlier. But the gates to the gardens were locked — the government worker who opened them every morning had yet to do so.
“It’s a lot of politics,” Ms. Paniagua, 26, said. “You’ve got to go through so many people, just to get something simple done.” …
In 2009, when Ms. Paniagua decided to plant gardens on the lawns at the Manhattanville Houses, she said, she had no idea that the process of getting permits and financing would take almost three years.
One resident puts the concerns eloquently:
Nova Strachan, who lives in the Union Avenue Consolidation houses in the Bronx, said that when the agency set up its Web site on environmental sustainability, it installed 178,000 energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the city. Ms. Strachan said she had hoped the agency was beginning to tackle the backlog of repairs and sustainability at the same time. Now, she said, her enthusiasm has waned.
“The whole green thing feels like it was a buzzword,” she said. “It feels like it’s fading out.”
The agency’s “green” page suggests another way in which its efforts haven’t come to fruition. A May 2011 entry is titled, “Rockaway Residents Learn How to Weather the Storm,” emphasizing how to prepare for bad weather. As the response to Hurricane Sandy showed, NYCHA didn’t exactly back up that information, either.
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