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Prompted by tenants and union leaders, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to ship hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer to staff and residents of the city’s sprawling public housing system.
NYCHA residents and employees are slated to receive shipments of the sanitizer Cuomo ordered up last month at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
The hygienic gift was requested this week by Danny Barber, chairperson of Citywide Council of Presidents, NYCHA’s tenant leadership panel, and Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, which represents 8,000 NYCHA employees.
Since the first New York City resident tested positive for COVID-19 March 1, some 260 NYCHA staff members have tested positive for the illness, including six who have died.
The public housing agency has said it’s not keeping tabs on the health of its 400,000 tenants — about one-fifth of whom are 62 or older.
Barber said he contacted the governor’s office seeking hand sanitizer, and Floyd reached out via state Sen. Brian Benjamin (D-Manhattan).
“We’re confident that we’ll be able to provide what they need in sufficient quantities,” Richard Azzopardi, the governor’s senior advisor, told THE CITY.
Since the virus began sweeping across the city, NYCHA workers have been required to enter tenants’ apartments to make repairs without proper protective gear such as masks.
After THE CITY reported on the problem, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Lynne Patton, regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New York office, arranged for more than 500,000 masks to be sent to NYCHA workers.
Barber said that after his call state officials made arrangements to distribute the sanitizer through each of the nine NYCHA districts represented by CCOP tenant leaders.
“The governor has been a friend of the residents of public housing when only a few of the elected officials were around,” said Barber, who lives in the Jackson Houses in The Bronx. “The governor stood diligent and fought for the residents of New York City as well as the tenants of NYCHA.”
Benjamin said Floyd reached out because workers weren’t given adequate soap to keep their hands clean — and because the governor had touted the ample supply of sanitizer, which is apparently bottled by state prisoners.
“Greg said we need hand sanitizer. He said they only have water,” Benjamin said. “All I’m trying to do is make sure the right people are aware of the right concerns. If you care about disparity, you want to make sure NYCHA is as clean and healthy as possible.”
For weeks, union leader Floyd has criticized NYCHA for failing to provide cleaning supplies and protective gear to NYCHA staff. On Friday he said, “We thank Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Benjamin for sending much needed hand sanitizer to the residents and our members in NYCHA.”
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