Poor Housing Linked to Immigrants’ Illnesses

Poor housing predisposes new immigrants in South Brooklyn to respiratory illness, according to a new report by the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), a community-based nonprofit.
The study, released last month, surveyed 100 households, mainly in Sunset Park, about chronic health problems and quality of housing. A third of the families interviewed in February and March of this year reported asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, chronic allergies, and other breathing conditions. Nearly all of the families with health troubles also had housing problems such as cockroaches and mold, which often were ignored by building management, according to the report.
“You would think this is a pharmacy and not my living room,” said tenant Teresa Garcia, whose apartment has a moldy ceiling and who treats her children for asthma and chronic allergies.
Many tenants in the neighborhood are reluctant to claim their rights and report violations to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development because they are in the U.S. illegally, the survey found. “Immigration is a huge reason for tenants not to report HPD complaints,” said Joseph Estrella of Lutheran Medical Center. “Many are illegal and landlords use that to harass them.” Of the study’s participants, 67 percent were foreign-born, largely from Latin countries, and a majority of those who reported their household earnings were low-income.
With seasonal allergies on the rise in New York City this year, tenants have no relief indoors or out. “Experts were advising people with asthma to stay inside so that the pollen would not make them sick,” said Leticia Alanis, a FAC community leader. “Unfortunately, for immigrants in South Brooklyn, their homes are making them sick, too.”
—K. Angelova

Reprinted with permission from City Limits Weekly.