NYC
07/21/2013 06:59 pm ET | Updated Sep 20, 2013

NYC Mayoral Candidates Publicize NYCHA Conditions With Sleepover Organized By Al Sharpton (VIDEO)

Mold in the bathrooms and kitchens. Roaches and flies in the lobby. A sleepless night without air conditioning.

Five mayoral Democratic candidates Sunday morning shared firsthand accounts of a night spent at a public housing complex in East Harlem in an effort to highlight poor living conditions at New York City-run residences.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn detailed black mold growing in her host family's bathroom that threatened to spread into the kitchen.

"They're very soon, I would argue, going to have the same kind of black mold right over where they prepare their food," she said. "One of the worst parts . . . is there is no real sense at all of when this is going to get fixed for them."

Quinn, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson -- most carrying sleeping bags and dressed down in polo shirts or ball caps -- spoke at a sunrise news conference that capped their 12-hour visit to the Lincoln Houses. The rivals for mayor had joined forces for the night to bring attention to what many said were unacceptable living conditions resulting from inefficient management of the New York City Housing Authority.

A NYCHA spokeswoman Sunday declined to comment.

Event organizer and civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton said the sleepover was the first of its kind. "The facts need to be brought out, because a lot of New Yorkers don't understand these conditions," he said. "Just one night will not solve any of the problems, but one night will take the issue out of the margins."

Sharpton's National Action Network with other activist groups arranged for the candidates to stay with residents who had volunteered to host them. The candidates slept on couches and on living room floors.

Weiner said he had trouble falling asleep in his host family's apartment; there was no air conditioning to ward off the 80-something-degree heat.

He said he believed any of the five candidates as mayor would make public housing reform a priority.

"It's hard to imagine after even one night, we're going to forget the challenges faced by the people of these developments," Weiner said. "The one remarkable take-away for me is . . . despite the fact that children are going to grow up beneath these scaffolding and believe this is the way a building is supposed to look, remarkable optimism exists. People want to make things better."

Katherine Wilson, 57, a retired nurse's aide who hosted de Blasio and his daughter, Chiara, 19, for the night, said the experience made her hopeful that the next mayor would help to speed up NYCHA repairs and keep her elderly and disabled neighbors in mind.

"People need to feel that they have a chance to move out of these places, because basically they feel trapped," she said.

Her son, Reginald, 38, who is unemployed, said of hosting the de Blasios, "This doesn't happen all the time, a politician in your house, listening to you."

Someone needs to fight on their behalf, he said, "because we don't have the clout."

Thompson pointed out last-minute fixes by NYCHA to the apartment of his host, Barbara Gamble, 67, a retired nursing home worker -- plaster slapped over cracked tile -- were made presumably in preparation for the public visit and added "insult to injury."

Liu said he hung out in the complex courtyard after his host went to bed at midnight and met many young residents playing cards who said job creation should be his priority. ___

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2013 NYC Mayoral Candidates