When U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman visited his childhood home in Harlem’s East River Houses last winter, he was struck by a piece of graffiti at the entrance. The tag read, simply, “Help.”
For Bowman, it was a fitting testament to the state of New York City’s public housing, which aims to provide “safe, affordable housing” to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. In recent years, however, the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, has become a poster child of environmental injustice and government neglect. The agency faces a $40 billion backlog of lead paint, mold, heat and gas outages, and myriad other problems to fix. This has translated into a public health crisis for its half-million residents — more than the population of Atlanta, Georgia — which, like so many other symptoms of inequality, has only deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NYCHA’s neglected infrastructure also takes a toll on the climate. A study by the agency last year found that its outdated heating systems waste two-thirds of their energy. Those systems are overwhelmingly powered by fuel oil and natural gas. As a result, NYCHA buildings alone produce a whopping 3 per... Read more