Submitted by Anthony Lopez on Feb. 16, 2016
In a recent Greenwich Free Press article, photos of black mold, roach infestations, and brown running water exposed the nature of what countless families in our town deal with every day. There have also been reports of bed bug infestations in both Wilbur Peck and Armstrong Courts.
While I am certain that the mention of these conditions disgusts all of us, nothing is more heartbreaking than realizing that many of our students live in these apartments. These students are your children’s friends, play next to them on the playground, attend the same daycares and schools, play on the same sports teams, and have been to your houses on playdates. These are not just somebody else’s children. They are our children. We need to act, and we need to act now.
In my letter to the DTC detailing why I withdrew from the race for the chairmanship, I doubled down on my love for our town, saying, “I love this town. I have ever since I came here for the first time nearly 18 years ago.” I often tell people that I did not grow up in Brooklyn; I survived. I know what it is like to have periods of roach, mouse, rat, and bed bug infestations. I know the horror, that I am sure some of our children deal with, of having a roach or bed bug crawl out of your school supplies in the classroom while you hope to God that no one noticed before you killed it.
During the last major outbreak of bed bugs in New York City, my home became infested. I would sit up all night watching my children, including an infant in her crib, sleep. It wasn’t because I was a doting father. It was to kill the bed bugs one by one as they came out in the middle of the night to feast on them. Until you have experienced these horrors firsthand, you will never fully understand the psychological toll it takes on you.
After nine years in Brooklyn, I fulfilled a promise to my wife and moved her back to Greenwich. However, we did not move back to her childhood home, Wilbur Peck Court. She too recalls residents with roach infestations, mice, and substandard living conditions. That was almost twenty years ago. Things have since gotten much, much worse.
I just spoke to a resident who has a 5-month-old child living in an apartment that is riddled with roaches. This resident described to me the slime and mold that was found under one of the tiles in her apartment. She describes her file with housing as being thick with work orders, and yet there has been no change in her living conditions. She also has a high school aged student.
They need your help. I am part of a small group of people who are dedicated to making substantial change in the lives of our fellow residents. It doesn’t matter what part of town we live in. We are all Greenwich. There is no secret that there are real issues that we need to address as a town. Some of them were outlined in my letter to the DTC. However, this is a cause that we can rally around in a powerful show of solidarity. We must send a unified message to every resident in this town that says, Greenwich takes care of Greenwich. Anyone who has the good fortune of becoming part of our town should find a town full of people who care about, and are dedicated to helping each other.
The issues with housing do not suggest that any of us are racists, prejudice, or any other type of ill willed person. We are all in this together, and we must work together to remedy this situation. We are all concerned citizens attempting to do what is right for those among us who need the most help at any given point in time.
There are real differences, and conversations that we need to have as we move forward together. Let’s leave the bickering over who said what, what they meant, and how wrong they are, for a time after we fix this issue. Let’s work together to bring a lasting resolution to the residents and children who live in these conditions.
If you’d like to help, please send our group a message at OneGreenwich@gmail.com. We are one town, with one goal – to ensure tranquility for all of our residents.