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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Seniors raise post-Sandy safety concerns
Tenants say repairs lag at Housing Authority high-rise
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Courtesy Facebook
Annie LaSalle in December with James Hodge, far right, who was among the many volunteers who delivered food and supplies to the residents of 415 National Blvd.

“We can’t live as seniors in a building with no security,” said Annie LaSalle, who lives at 415 National Blvd., a Long Beach Section 8 senior housing building.

The six-story apartment building was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. The lobby was flooded and the mechanical systems, elevators and laundry room were damaged, said Paul Goodman, executive director of the Long Beach Housing Authority.

Even now, three months after the storm, one elevator has yet to be repaired, and residents say that the front-entrance intercom system is not functioning, leaving the building open to anyone who walks in and leaving tenants feeling unsafe in their own apartments.

New York Communities for Change, an organization that helps low- and middle-income people deal with housing issues, has been helping the tenants organize and draw attention to their plight.

Last Thursday, a group of residents voiced their concerns at a meeting of the Long Island Regional Planning Council at City Hall, where they said that the Housing Authority has been slow to address what they described as unsafe conditions and other issues at the building. Many said they are not being treated with respect when they contact the authority for updates.

“Nothing has changed — it seems to be getting worse,” said tenant Geraldine Levosi. “We are all frightened. They only have one small elevator, and if there should be a fire, god forbid, we’re all in trouble …”

County Legislator Denise Ford, a Republican from Long Beach who was a panelist at the meeting, said she would look into the issues at 415 National and other high-rise buildings and contact the Housing Authority on residents’ behalf.

For his part, Goodman said he has received no complaints from any of the building’s tenants, and he thinks it has been “pretty functional” and that his staff has done the best it could under the circumstances. “Maybe I’m callous,” he said, “but I don’t see the emergency in the type of condition in the building.”

But LaSalle has been vocal about the living situation in her building since the storm. “If I had a place to go, I’d be moving out myself,” she said.

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