NYC agrees to billion-dollar NYCHA settlement

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NEW YORK -

The city has agreed to a $1.2 billion settlement to reform NYCHA buildings throughout the Big Apple and address chronic public housing problems.

Tenants have complained for years of inadequate services and unsafe living conditions, and prosecutors backed their claims in a federal lawsuit. An 80-page federal complaint released Monday outlines issues ranging from mold and vermin infestations to inadequate heat and hot water.

Investigators found that NYCHA's failures put some families at risk — accusations they highlighted with the housing authority's lead-paint scandal and attempted cover-up. For years, investigators say, NYCHA failed to comply with lead-paint safety regulations by not inspecting apartments and by failing to remove peeling lead paint from its housing units. Lead is toxic, especially to children.

After the reports surfaced in April, Shola Olatoye resigned as housing commissioner.

Barbara Saunders lived at the Bronx River Houses until recently, where the report says 98 percent of the apartments contain lead paint.

"I lived at that apartment for 28 years," she says. "As soon as I moved out, they put a sign on the door: Lead and asbestos. Do not enter."

Now she says she has health issues that she blames on NYCHA.

"Sometimes I can't breathe," she says. "My legs hurt. I always have to have someone walk with me. I feel I'm going to pass out."

The settlement will give NYCHA five years to make sweeping reforms in all of its 326 developments. A federal monitoring board will also oversee the housing authority for the next 10 years.

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