New London Mayor calls deteriorating housing complex an emergency priority

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NEW LONDON -- Most cities across Connecticut are struggling with a lack of affordable low income housing. And, the conditions in a New London high rise apartment complex may soon handicap that city even further.

The 50-year-old Thames River Apartment complex, on Crystal Ave., is running into some serious issues. And the city wants it vacated as soon as possible.

"This is a federal complex and the money has just not kept up with the capital needs of the complex," said first term mayor Michael Passero.

One common theme?

"There were vermin issues and in some or most of the units we saw cockroaches and or mice," said Ryan McCammon, a sanitarian for the Ledge Light Health District, who inspected at least five of the 124 units last week.

"I have no food on my shelf because they (rodents) have eaten through it," said Christina Texidor, who has lived in the complex for a year.  "I have had to take and throw everything away."

And, the pest problem will be hard to get under control.

"It could take weeks to months, under the best conditions," said McCammon.

There are plenty of other issues with the physical plant.

"These places were built in the 60's," noted Passero, a longtime former New London firefighter. "The boilers have failed. We have a temporary boiler hooked up and it's time to make decisions."

Next Tuesday, during a Housing Authority board meeting, it's expected a vote will be taken to determine whether the city will apply for disposition with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which, if approved, could result in tenants being permitted to move elsewhere.

"We're hoping that we can get it done in six months," said Passero, in reference to when he would like to see all of the nearly 400 tenants relocated.

A city source tells Fox 61 the disposition application process alone could take at least a year.

"We haven't really been able to pinpoint an exact time frame, but everybody understands the urgency of the situation," added Passero.

New London's Housing Authority would be responsible for the relocation costs for the folks that live in each unit of the 124 unit,s at a cost, a source says, of at least $2000 per unit.

Passero says he does have a fondness this complex, though. His first job was working for a local pharmacy, for which he delivered prescriptions to Thames River Apartments.