Residents of beleaguered New Haven apartments feel helpless

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NEW HAVEN – On one tenant’s front door, a sticker is posted touting her daughter’s good grades. Inside the apartment, however, there was nothing to be proud of.

“Right here, there was a big leak right here,” said Yomalys Rivera, as she pointed to a wall next to a kitchen window in her Church Street South apartment.

She has five children, all with varying degrees of asthma. Her youngest, who starts pre-kindergarten next week, has developed chronic asthma in the two years the family has lived in this apartment.

“I’ve got the medical records, everything, showing how many times I've been in the emergency room with her,” said Rivera, who said she has been forced to get rid of many of her children’s clothes because she cannot rid them of the stench of mold.

The tenants all seem to share a common theme: they’re scrubbing mold from their walls, floors and ceilings everyday using bleach, but, it returns with a vengeance.

These hazardous problems, according to the city’s building department, are a result of faulty roofs on most of the 18 residential buildings on site.

Water seeps and the problems are never eradicated, according to tenants.

“I called my lawyer and said I'm not going to bother anymore because these people are not doing anything for me,” said Rivera, who said she has filed at least a dozen complaints with the property management office.

Lawrence Gottesdiener, the chairman of the Northland Investment Corporation, which has owned the property since 2008, released a statement Monday:

Northland is working to improve living conditions at Church Street South. When we bought the property in 2008, we understood that it was in terrible condition and needed to be redeveloped.  Unfortunately, after working with the city for years and spending millions of dollars on the redevelopment plan, it unraveled in 2012 when we could not reach consensus with community leaders.

During our ownership, Northland has invested $5 million trying to improve this property, but no matter how much we spend, Church Street South continues to deteriorate. The bottom line is that the property needs to be redeveloped.  We are currently in talks with city and community leaders to try to get everyone back to the table. Everyone agrees that this situation needs to change.

Our first priority is to improve living conditions for the residents at Church Street South.  Our second priority is to find suitable replacement housing, because the existing buildings are obsolete and will continue to deteriorate.  Our third priority is to create a landmark development consistent with the Hill to Downtown Initiative.