Friday, June 19, 2015

Apartment residents voice concerns over crowded housing signup scene 

Residents of the Evergreen apartment complex said there are several reasons why they are angry about the way signups for Section 8 housing were handled by the Monticello Housing Authority.
When more than 600 people - many of them Hasidic men and women from outside of Sullivan County - lined up to get on the waiting list, residents were upset because it appeared they got more notice than county residents.
But more than anything, residents are upset with how the crowd was handled when it became disruptive.
"If that was a slew of black people, police would have got them out of there," said Evergreen resident Alexis Hill.
The Monticello Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Thursday to hear residents' complaints following MHA's opening of the waiting list for Section 8 housing on Monday. About 20 people showed up Thursday.
The line for signups began to form around 9:30 p.m. Sunday and continued to grow through the early morning hours. Many residents said they were awakened by the crowd, but said there was nothing done to either keep them quiet or have them go elsewhere.
"Any time we have a barbecue and it hits 10 p.m., the cops are escorting people out of here," said resident Elaine Williams, former county NAACP president and current secretary. "(The crowd) should have been made to get out of here."
MHA Executive Director Anne Johansen said it was out of her control how police handled the situation. MHA Board Chairman Mattie Anderson said it was something residents need to take up with the village.
The majority of the MHA board agreed with residents' complaints. So did Village Manager David Sager, who said the situation would have been handled slightly different had it been a different group of people.
Sager said he will have discussions with village officials, including the police department, about the issue.
Monticello Police Chief Robert Mir, though, said those statements are not true. He said the people waiting in line weren't breaking the law. In fact, they were just following the directions given to them by the housing authority, Mir said.
"For them to imply it would be handled differently because of racial or religious backgrounds is offensive, inaccurate and inappropriate," Mir said.
Johansen tried to quell some of the residents' concerns. She told residents that even though anyone could get on the waiting list - even if they were from out of the county - preference is still given to Sullivan County residents.
Johansen also said she put notifications in local newspapers' legal sections alerting people of the opening of the signup list.

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