By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A resident of the Straus Houses on East 28th Street is pushing NYCHA to re-implement a program that he feels could have helped a victim of domestic violence who was killed in the building at the end of October.
Aaron Humphrey, who is also a member of the Housing, Homeless and Human Rights committee of Community Board 6, helped to research and write a resolution for the committee in 2015 that would create an orientation program offering meetings for tenants who are new to the building who have also been victims of domestic violence. However, the Residents Association hasn’t yet been able to coordinate with the Housing Authority to implement the program.
The resolution, which passed the full board unanimously, was specifically in support of creating or re-implementing an orientation program in which Resident Council leaders could work with members of the Domestic Violence Response Team from the mayor’s office to help new and existing residents. The Housing Authority did not respond to requests for comment about privacy concerns or possible access to a list of residents to assist in implementing the program.
“You have a lot of people who just prey on tenants for their apartments, who hang around trying to meet new residents,” Humphrey said of the need for such a program. “It could be helpful for new residents to have meetings once a month, or even once every three months, just to let them know what’s going on, where they can get their groceries, what to be aware of in the community. The tenants who move here through domestic violence programs are trying to get a fresh start and this can really help to get them involved in the community.”
Acting NYCHA press secretary Jasmine Blake said that the woman who was killed, Latisha Fowler, was moved into the building on East 28th Street on June 8 with her two sons as a domestic violence transfer from Bayview Houses in Canarsie. Blake said that Fowler had been in contact with nonprofit organization Sanctuary for Families and she was transferred to the different NYCHA property because of violent incidents with her male cousin. NYCHA also reportedly connected Fowler to unspecified Domestic Violence Aftercare Services. Charles Pratt, her 33-year-old boyfriend, was arrested on October 30 for allegedly beating her to death inside the apartment the day before.
Humphrey said that the program wouldn’t actually cost NYCHA anything, because it could mostly function through the work of volunteers. He added that there is space in the building already to hold the meetings, but NYCHA has cited privacy concerns as a reason for the hold-up.
“We would need the list of new tenants so we need to work with NYCHA but it hasn’t worked out so far,” Humphrey said. “It’s also not necessarily a priority (for NYCHA) because there are so many other things (they’re) dealing with like backlog repairs, security and safety issues, but this has to do with safety, too.”
NYCHA said it could not confirm to Town & Village that the program was previously in place but Humphrey said that the resolution he wrote was partially based on information he got from NYCHA representatives who frequently work with the Residents Association in his building.
“Resident safety and security is our top priority,” Blake said. “Our partnerships with the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence and (Human Resources Administration) allow for any domestic violence victims living in NYCHA to access the resources they need to build a better life.”