By Reverend Michel Faulkner
Growing up in the Bronx as the fourth youngest of 11 children wasn’t easy. When Vicky was three, she and her brothers and sisters almost died due to neglect and were removed from their mother. They were placed in foster care until she was 10. “The hardest thing about this was learning how to trust people again, because everyone always let you down.” Vicky began smoking marijuana when she was 13, and by the time she was 28, realized that her habit was out of her control. “I was smoking non-stop and spending all my money on weed.” “I was a slave and I wanted to be free, so I did what I had to do.” Vicky checked into rehab. Nine months later, she was sober.
During rehab, Vicky earned a Certificate in Culinary Arts. After graduation, she worked as a cook for several years. She then decided to become a drug counselor, so she enrolled in night school. She finished in four years with a B.A. and a 4.0 grade point average. Vicky worked hard to overcome her abusive childhood and she did. “I know what it’s like to suffer because someone doesn’t love you. Sometimes we must help other people despite our own pain. It makes me feel good to give back.” Her life wasn’t easy, but she never gave up.
Vicky also wanted a rent-stabilized apartment, so she applied through NYCHA. After a three-year wait, she was in. That’s when her real troubles began. Vicky saw a leak in the ceiling above her toilet and reported it to management. Nothing happened. The leak got worse and she kept reporting it. Soon, the ceiling cracked in her bathroom. What came down from the toilet upstairs wasn’t just water. Vicky had to use an umbrella to protect her head when she used the toilet. Around month 16, maintenance patched the leak.
The leak reoccurred after two weeks, and it never dried. Vicky then went to Housing Court. The judge ruled in her favor, but she was still using the umbrella to protect her head from the crap upstairs. Now, Vicky began to blame herself and doubt her resolve despite all she had accomplished, “I felt like less than a person for the first time in my life, like I didn’t matter.”
During a campaign stop, I met Vicky at a tenant’s association meeting. I promised to help but it was more difficult than I imagined. Reporters said, “There are so many stories like this, it’s not news.” I persuaded a producer from NY1 to assign Michael Scotto to cover the story. When the story aired, NYCHA sent someone to fix the leak—after more than two years! This time, they went into the apartment above and fixed the pipe. The ceiling was repaired. Two months later, the leak returned.
NYCHA residents like Vicky are suffering at the hands of a City agency that is horrendously mismanaged. Vicky is a helper. She spent her life turning her pain into motivation to help others. However, this situation is proving more than she can bear.
To address this human crisis and end the bureaucratic disaster, we have launched ‘NYCHA Lives Matter.’ We want to let Vicky and thousands like her know that they are not alone. We need Vicky’s resolve to help those who can’t quite help themselves. We need her to continue to use her pain to heal others because #nychalivesmatter.