By NATASHA LENNARD
March 1, 2010
Celia Barrow, a resident of the General Grant Houses in Harlem, greeted Daniel O’Connor of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor during a tour of public housing last Friday. Human rights violations often seem the preserve of distant lands with despotic leaders and destitute peoples. But on Friday, federal officials preparing a report for the United Nations heard directly from New York residents and advocates about the abuse of rights in the city.
Friday’s fact-finding session, at Columbia University Law School and in nearby apartment buildings, was in preparation for a report the State Department has to submit to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.
Speakers described a city rife with racial barriers to affordable housing, drug-filled homeless shelters and landlords who evict arbitrarily without warning.
“Through this, and other consultations around the country, we’ve received information we can use to provide the U.N. and the international community with an honest, frank assessment of human rights in America – both the good and the bad,” said Chris Camponovo, the State Department representative helping prepare the report.
Mr. Camponovo added that although the United States is in compliance with all its U.N. treaty obligations, the consultation would address human rights abuses in a broader economic, social and cultural sense than simply international, legal obligations. “We should be able to be an example,” he said.
The report to the United Nations, due later this year, is a requirement of the organization’s new “Universal Periodic Review” program for member nations.
On Friday, advocates for education, housing, health, employment and criminal justice took to the podium to highlight problems facing their sectors and ways the government might address them. There was a heavy focus on housing rights.
“Housing rights violations are some of the most visible human rights violations in our country,” said Eric Tars, human rights director at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “The international community has increasingly taken note of America’s failure to uphold the right to housing,” he added.
Speakers highlighted the proliferation of vacant property in New York, which they said could be used to house the homeless.
“Housing is a human right, and that right is not being recognized,” said Rob Robinson of Picture the Homeless.
United Nations fact-finders have been all over the city of late – in October, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing visited a fair-housing group in Brooklyn and visited several other sites.
After Friday’s conference-room session, Mr. Robinson led the State Department representatives onto the streets of Harlem.
They walked to the nearby Grant public-housing complex, near West 125th Street, where, up 20 floors and along a dingy, beige-tiled corridor, they met Jackson Marizan, 29. Mr. Marizan, a currently unemployed father of two, showed the delegation around his two-bedroom apartment.
“I’ve been complaining about mold for over a year,” he said, pointing to his bathroom ceiling, speckled with spores. “Both my little girls have asthma, and it’s just not safe to live like this.”
The government officials completed the New York leg of their tour on Saturday with a visit to the site of the former Albee Square mall in Brooklyn, which was demolished in 2004 and is now home to a stalled redevelopment project called City Point.
On the site visit, Mr. Camponovo and his colleagues heard how, despite the public investment of more than $20 million, there have been no pledges of either living wages or jobs for displaced workers.
“The truly valuable aspect of this process is the engagement with civil society,” Mr. Camponovo said. “We can only present the U.N. with a 20-page report, but we hope we can provide a snapshot of the concerns and issues that confront people in this country, as well as highlighting the things we are doing well.”
Comment from the Action Committee on the Health Effects of Mold, Microbes and Indoor Contaminants
March 2, 2010
I hope they include a comprehensive discussion about the health effects of mold in their report to the U.N. Mold can cause serious health problems. For accurate information about the health effects of mold, go to Truth About Mold. Be sure to read our letter to the World Health Organization. You might also like to know about a new group that has been formed. The name of the group is Action Committee on the Health Effects of Mold, Microbes and Indoor Contaminants (ACHEMMIC). The group is comprised of scientists, researchers, physicians, environmental experts and others who are working together to promote the truth about the health effects of mold, microbes and indoor contaminants. To learn more about this group and to read their letter to the Federal Government, go to ACHEMMIC.
Political Action Committee – National Apartment Association (NAA) files Amicus Brief in mold case (two infant deaths in mold filled apt – Wasatch Prop Mgmt) citing US Chamber/ACOEM ‘litigation defense report’ to disclaim health effects of indoor mold & limit financial risk for industry
“Changes in construction methods have caused US buildings to become perfect petri dishes for mold and bacteria to flourish when water is added. Instead of warning the public and teaching physicians that the buildings were causing illness; in 2003 the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a think-tank, and a workers comp physician trade organization mass marketed an unscientific nonsequitor to the courts to disclaim the adverse health effects to stave off liability for financial stakeholders of moldy buildings. Although publicly exposed many times over the years, the deceit lingers in US courts to this very day.” Sharon Noonan Kramer
Information on Riverstone Residential, the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, and the owners of Toxic Mold Infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge, Louisiana continuing to allow tenants to be exposed to extreme amounts of mold toxins