Judge to Appoint Special Master to Oversee NYCHA Compliance with Mold Contamination Settlement

In a victory for New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) tenants with asthma who have mold in their apartments, Judge William H. Pauley III of the Southern District of New York issued an order on December 15, 2015 appointing a special master to oversee NYCHA’s compliance with the settlement reached in Baez v. NYCHA in 2014. In partnership with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and NCLEJ Board Member Steve Edwards and his team at Hogan Lovells, NCLEJ pursued a motion for enforcement of the settlement agreement.

While mold has been treated in apartments throughout the city, statistics indicate that a significant number of people are experiencing the recurrence of mold contamination. In the court order, Judge Pauley notes, “The failure to remediate mold and excessive moisture jeopardizes the health and public welfare of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.”

The consent decree, which was negotiated by NCLEJ and NRDC and approved by the court in April 2014, requires NYCHA to complete “simple” repairs within seven days and “complex” repairs within 15 days, and to follow up with tenants. NYCHA argued that the seven and 15 day periods were not for the completion of repairs, but for the completion of each task necessary to effect repairs. The court agreed with NCLEJ that NYCHA has clearly failed to comply with the decree since day one, noting, “NYCHA’s justifications for its failure to comply are inadequate, and the attitude of NYCHA officials appears to be one of indifference.”

In addition to granting the appointment of a special master, the court confirmed the tenants’ interpretation of the timelines for completing repairs, and required that a senior NYCHA official attend future proceedings in court. The court stated that NYCHA’s reading of the repair timeline requirements “rests on a cramped and superficial interpretation of the plain language of the Consent Decree.” Read the court order here or find out more in The New York Times, New York Daily News, and The Real Deal.

Click here to read about the original lawsuit.