‘Landlord, Landlord’ Is Loss Of Hot Water For Five Days Important?

Citizen watchdog John Marshall Lee brought to the attention of the City Council Monday night “A local Section 8 complex for elderly and disabled has on two occasions in a recent five-week period failed to maintain availability of hot water for five days at a time.” Lee’s presentation to the legislative body included recitation of Langston Hughes’ Ballad Of The Landlord. Editor’s note: Twin Towers is the housing complex in question in the commentary. Connecticut Legal Services has been examining similar issues in other housing locations.

From Lee:

When you are asked to think of a vulnerable population in your community, where does your attention go? Do you tune out, saying, “That’s not my problem. Good luck”” Or does your mind move to children, the elderly, the disabled, or those who have suffered past abuse or trauma that impairs their world today? It can be a broad world that demands much of mercy and charity from the community. It also demands accountability from those who have taken a position as stewards of vulnerable people. How does owner/management respond to elected tenant representatives?

Housing is one area where those who are poorest have real issues when it comes to shelter from the elements, safety within their four walls, a healthy environment free of lead, rodent or insect threats and a management responsive to issues and concerns as they arise. Who holds management to their duties and responsibilities when they fail to uphold basic quality of life standards, ignore stated limits for occupancy of one-bedroom units, or allow businesses to function within residences? Who gets into ‘hot water’ for failure to administer fairly and with justice for all?

And today ‘hot water’ is the issue in a least one locality. When the mechanicals in a housing complex become old, sometimes they begin to deliver intermittently, or weakly or possibly not at all. A local Section 8 complex for elderly and disabled has on two occasions in a recent five-week period failed to maintain availability of hot water for five days at a time. That is a quality of life omission according to lawyers familiar with housing law. What if it happens that service of equipment is uneven and some tenants get lukewarm water, at best, and others get only cold water? Or what happens when a pipe breaks, the Fire Department is called to close off the break, and no matter what is done to restore appropriate water circulation, residents are left with incomplete restoration of walls and interiors leading to unhealthy mold conditions?

Today we are raising the simple issue of ‘hot water’ for bathing and for kitchen use. Whom do you call? How long do you reasonably wait? What is fair and just for people who live in public housing? Are their consequences for those who fail to care for or seek to profit from the exercise or abuse of their power? Time will tell.

By Langston Hughes

Landlord, Landlord,
My roof has sprung a leak.
Don’t you ‘member I told you about it
Way last week?

Landlord, Landlord,
These steps is broken down.
When you come up yourself
It’s a wonder you don’t fall down.

Ten Bucks you say I owe you?
Ten Bucks you say is due?
Well, that’s Ten Bucks more’n I’ll pay you
Till you fix this house up new.

What? You gonna get eviction orders?
You gonna cut off my heat?
You gonna take my furniture and
Throw it in the street?

Um-huh! You talking high and mighty.
Talk on–till you get through.
You ain’t gonna be able to say a word
If I land my fist on you.

Police! Police!
Come and get this man!
He’s trying to ruin the government
And overturn the land!

Copper’s whistle!
Patrol bell!
Precinct Station.
Iron cell.

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  1. John Marshall Lee, thank you addressing this issue which is very important. Let me address this issue that you mentioned, what happens when a pipe breaks, the Fire Department is called to close off the break, and no matter what is done to restore appropriate water circulation, residents are left with incomplete restoration of walls and interiors leading to unhealthy mold conditions? Many fire officers would inform the tenant of the emergency housing phone number that responds to all calls in public housing. Believe it or not there residents who believe that if the call the fire department to come out that have to pay for their service.

  2. Andy you just beat me to the same question. Why haven’t you named the complex John? I’m assuming you are attempting to call attention to an egregious situation, why not call them out?

    1. Liza if you call them out then you become involved. A big part of today’s problems stem from people not wanting to become involved. If you don’t want to become involved then just be quiet. JML I know you are a better man than this I also know you have a lot of info on bad things going on in this city but writing essays as long as war and peace are not going to help

      1. Andy I agree with you. If that had occurred in a senior or public complex in my district I’d be shouting it from the roof top. I applaud John for his vigilance and attention, but what good is it if the people in a position to do something about it don’t know what’s going on. Many times the residents who have to bear intolerable conditions, think they have to, and say nothing.

  3. Guys, I have been following the subject of the housing issues of more than 5,000 units in the City getting support from HUD for several years now.

    The entry here is around 400 words, Andy, much shorter than War and Peace. The burst pipe problem is common to Twin Towers and PTBarnum and it brings with it mold that gets ignored or painted over and sick tenants.
    Work orders are not handled fully or timely and recourse is difficult, because tenants are afraid today of eviction by the landlord. Where do they go then?

    Who is accountable for stewardship? Is an Acting or Interim Director accountable? Is a Mayor appointed commission accountable? The Mayor shows up at locations around election times especially, but does he sit with the women who tell him there are problems? Or are they told that the Mayor is there merely to be sure they get out to vote? Who is our neighbor? How do we care for them? How do we care for the dollars that are spent by the public taxpayer? Who can answer these issues?

    When the City Council heard the above comments on Monday evening, John Olson took a moment of personal privilege to inform the audience that my usual talks about City finances left him in the dark , but he understood the subject tonight and was in total agreement. Interestingly President Tom McCarthy spontaneously agreed with both Olson’s remarks. And wonderfully, Ron Mackey, the first poster, agreed too. That is an OIB Trifecta if you ask me.

    To those OIB readers who have understood some or all of my fiscal postings, the admissions by Olson and McCarthy may be interesting. Though I send each CC member a copy of the night’s comments promptly, neither representative has ever called with a question on the subject matter. Are they the only people who cannot handle City fiscal matters in a more informed state as would be prudent? What about the other 90%? Be careful in choosing. Time will tell.

  4. That wasn’t so hard was it? That little shit in city hall appoints the commissioners to the housing authority so the blame lays squarely in his lap. Its the mayors fault that the housing authority stopped allowing ferry passengers from parking in a long vacated lot
    Its time for a telephone call to HUD and inform them how the seniors are being treated.This just shows how Ganim and his cronies don’t care about the elderly and needy in Bridgeport.
    BTW John if you don’t name the problem area and who is in charge you are wasting your time.

  5. We have State Reps and Senators who should be made aware of these issues and conditions; they’re higher up on the food-chain and could go directly to the State agencies overseeing these buildings. I have to give it to Steve Stafstrom, he has been engaged in a senior building in my district, and has responded to concerns he heard from the residents; the issues that would take forever, if never, if we had to rely on local resources.

      1. Joel I know. I was referring to 2400 North Ave Senior Complex in the 132nd district. As I do with credible candidates running for office in my district, I accompany them in for an opportunity to meet with the residents so they can make their elected officials aware of their concerns. Steve has responded to them, I can’t speak for other buildings. Maybe someone should do the same as I do, if he or any other candidate or elected official doesn’t try to resolve obvious issues of concern, then they don’t deserve the support of the affected voters.

  6. Good job, John… It would seem that if federal and state funds are involved in the rental payments and maintenance of these facilities that our representation in Hartford and DC should be aware of this situation and that BHA officials should be in “hot water.”… It would seem that Attorney General Jepsen, et al., should be involved, also… John: Those public officials (state and federal reps) that have been made aware of this situation should have begun getting some action on this by now — if they haven’t, then their negligence needs to be flagged in the media…

  7. JML,
    We can’t bother our two State Senators at this time, with these insignificant Housing matters, while their helping East Windsor with Casino jobs! Can we?

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