Sept. 6, 2002 – Residents of one of St. Thomas's oldest public housing communities say they are waiting to see if the Housing Parks and Recreation Department makes good on promises to improve their living conditions.
Some of those residents of the Charlotte Apartments who recently met with HPR Commissioner Ira Hobson said they have been registering their complaints since 1997, with no relief. Hobson, meanwhile, said he has set some ideas in motion and tenants already are seeing results.
One of the biggest complaints for some of those living in the 14 public housing units in Hospital Ground is indoor flooding. Hobson said the situation stems in part from a roofing program carried out in 1997 and in part from old plumbing and cracks in some exterior walls.
Every time it rains, tenants say, they must reach for their mops. Judith Molyneaux, a teacher, said the situation is especially bad in her bedroom, and she has moved most of the things from her closet there to another part of the home. And, she said, constant dampness has left her home plagued with green mold.
Hobson said there isn't much he can do about rainwater beading up under the edge of the roofs and running down the apartment walls, but he could and did do something about water seeping in through the cracks. On an experimental basis, he sent HPR maintenance personnel out to fill in the cracks on two buildings with putty, then apply a water-seal compound used in cisterns, followed by a coat of paint.
"They have been amenable to it," Hobson said of the tenants in the buildings chosen for the experimental measure. "They said they saw the work has started."
He also promised to act on residents' complaints about parking and abandoned cars, soliciting help from the Police Department and a Government House task force that he said has spent the last several weeks tagging and removing cars.
Apartment residents say the flooding problem is so bad that in some cases rainwater runs from one unit to another. Molyneaux, who said she has lived in the housing complex since 1967, said she is still waiting to see the promised signs of progress, "After the meeting, there were some people of expertise who came around and were supposed to be evaluating problems," she said. "I'm waiting to see what happens, but I'm not enthusiastic about it."
According to Lucian Stout, president of the Charlotte Apartment Tenants Council, some work has been done. Maintenance workers fixed a set of cabinets for one resident and repaired some of the windows that wouldn't open, she said, but the promised work on cracks in the walls was yet to be seen.
"They haven't started yet," Stout said. "They've just been around to see what has to be done." But she said the action she has seen since the meeting has left her feeling that HPR officials finally have the tenants' interests at heart. "This is the first time that interest is really being shown to the tenants," she said.
Hobson said in order to carry out a more extensive campaign against indoor flooding, he would need a supplemental appropriation to his agency's Fiscal Year 2003 budget. Sealing all of the walls against seepage and painting them could run $150,000, he said, and without extra funds, it may not happen.
He said there is no immediate solution to the leaks that come from the reconstructed roofs. "Some are cemented in, but all are not," he said.
A report on the work that has been done to address complaints will be presented to the Charlotte Apartments residents at a followup meeting scheduled for Sept. 18, Hobson said.
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