The city Housing Authority on Monday finally started tackling repairs long ago requested by the namesake great-grandchild of Eleanor Bumpurs, the NYCHA tenant gunned down by police in 1984 after complaining about apartment conditions.
The swift action followed THE CITY’s report Sunday on the challenges facing Bumpurs’ kin more than three decades after NYPD Emergency Services Unit cops killed the 66-year-old woman inside her Bronx home while executing an eviction warrant.
“I guess putting my complaints in the paper makes Housing move faster,” said Eleanore Bumpurs, who spells her first name with an extra “e.”
The 32-year-old woman hadn’t been born when her great-grandmother’s death triggered citywide outrage, becoming a stark symbol of both police violence against Black New Yorkers and the NYPD’s inability to deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Decades later, the younger Bumpurs has found herself struggling to get NYCHA to remedy multiple problems she’s faced since moving into the Forest Houses in The Bronx 11 years ago.
Her son, who is now 7, registered elevated levels of lead in his blood three years ago when the family was living in a Forest Houses apartment on Tinton Avenue. NYCHA moved the family to another Forest Houses unit, on Trinity Avenue, where Bumpurs says she has repeatedly requested repairs that went unaddressed for long periods.
Last year, NYCHA took months to replace a broken shower knob, forcing her to use a wrench to turn on the shower. This year, her bathroom floor began to collapse, and paint started peeling off her hallway wall.
‘NYCHA Finally Came’
On Monday morning, a NYCHA superintendent at Forest Houses showed up at Bumpurs’ apartment and took photos of the collapsing bathroom floor and the peeling hallway paint.
“NYCHA finally came to see about the bathroom and the paint peel,” she said.
Bumpurs noted that she has never been shown any evidence that NYCHA has tested either her prior apartment or her current unit for lead paint, even though officials were notified by the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of her son’s high level of lead.
The boy registered a lead-blood level of seven micrograms per deciliter, above the five micrograms per deciliter the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says should trigger intervention.
On Monday, Rochel Leah Goldblatt, a NYCHA spokesperson, said, “Bricklayers are at the apartment working on repairs, which should be done by midweek. Once they are done, painting will be completed.”
She declined to respond to THE CITY’s inquiry on whether the authority had tested either of Bumpurs’ Forest Houses apartments for lead paint.
A History of Neglect
The number of outstanding repair requests has been a longstanding problem for the nation’s biggest housing authority.
Toward the end of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s tenure, the figure peaked at 420,000. Bloomberg pressed NYCHA to reduce the backload and by the time he left office in 2013 it was down to around 110,000.
Press reports and a federal investigation later revealed that tens of thousands of those open repair requests were closed without the fixes taking place. The numbers have once again steadily climbed on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s watch, reaching a record 483,000 open requests as of Dec. 31, records show.
In 2018, federal prosecutors charged that NYCHA had hidden the squalid conditions in thousands of its 175,000 apartments from government overseers. That included falsely claiming agency officials were aggressively monitoring and abating its lead paint problem.
In 2019, NYCHA and de Blasio signed off with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development on an agreement to appoint an independent federal monitor to oversee its adherence to laws and rules requiring that public housing tenants be provided with safe, healthy living conditions.
Eleanor Bumpurs’ tragic confrontation with cops in 1984 began after she’d stopped paying her rent and NYCHA moved to evict her. She had told NYCHA she would again pay her rent if they addressed what she said was her outstanding requests to repair a non-functioning stove, broken hall lights and a busted pipe in her bathroom.
Bumpurs, who struggled with mental illness, brandished a knife when cops removed a door and burst into her apartment. The NYPD said the officers had been trained to deal with individuals experiencing mental health crises, but when she swung the knife one of the cops blasted her twice with a shotgun.
Critics demanded that the NYPD upgrade its interactions with the mentally ill, while the Bumpurs family filed a $10 million lawsuit against NYCHA. The city ultimately settled that suit in 1990 for $200,000. The NYPD continues to struggle with how it handles calls involving people in mental distress.