Gov. Cuomo calls NYCHA complex 'disgusting' during tour, demands change

MELROSE, Bronx (WABC) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo met people and toured their apartments at a NYCHA complex in the Bronx Monday, calling the situation shameful and talking about neglect by the city and by NYCHA.

He made clear that, as governor, he is not responsible for the agency.

The governor's visit to the public housing development came as Mayor Bill de Blasio is out of town attending a mayor's conference in Austin, Texas.

Governor Cuomo has attacked the city over its mismanagement of heat and lead paint issues at NYCHA buildings across the city. This visit seemed to only reinforce the governor's opinion.

He declared a state of emergency and called the conditions at the Jackson Houses in the Melrose section "disgusting" many times. He said there has been neglect by the city and from NYCHA, and he is calling on the New York City Council to come up with a plan in the next two weeks to remedy the issues.

He said one dollar for repairs takes NYCHA about three years to make happen. The boilers need replacing, he says, but also the day-to-day conditions are deplorable.

One apartment the governor saw has housed a family for the past 12 years. There are leaks, roaches and paint peeling off the walls that may contain lead. The family has a 14-month-old child who lives in the apartment with his mother, uncle and his grandfather who has Cerebral Palsy.

The little boy's mother says her father, Mr. Jeffrey Blyther, has made hundreds of calls to 311 and even filled out paper complaints, but they have never received any help.

"There are roaches, vermin, there are health safety issues, the paint is coming off the walls, the plaster is coming off the walls, it has nothing to do with the way the family is taking care of the unit, the unit is crumbling around them," Cuomo said. "The situation we've seen is as upsetting and as disturbing as anything I've seen anywhere and I've been through the worst housing complexes all across this country. It is just shocking that in New York State we would have people who are subjected to these conditions, and on behalf of the people of the state, I apologize to the NYCHA residents because they deserve better and they'll get better."

The governor also unveiled a plan to create a tenant-led oversight council to oversee how funding is spent and how repairs are being conducted at NYCHA.

"NYCHA residents deserve safe and habitable housing, and the conditions I witnessed first-hand this morning simply do not qualify," New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. "Exposure to lead, mold and pests can have serious and lasting health effects, particularly for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. My team at the Department of Health stands ready to conduct further investigations and we commend Governor Cuomo for his leadership in addressing this serious matter."

Governor Cuomo was invited to visit the Jackson Houses by an attorney representing tenants suing NYCHA.

* More Bronx news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.