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Residents of the Lower East Side’s Lillian Wald projects feel cheated. Sure, their buildings are getting repaired. But even though federal law recommends local public housing authorities hire tenants for rehab work, the New York City Housing Authority won’t respond to their job applications, say Wald residents.

Section 3 of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 says that if federal money is used to fund repair work in the projects, local housing authorities and their contractors must do their best to hire people from the development and the surrounding neighborhood. The idea is for tenants to get a chance to learn construction.

But according to Wald residents, not a single one of their neighbors will be working with the NYCHA crew designated to repair the ceilings and roofs in their buildings–and they are ticked off about it. In October, residents marched with members of Good Old Lower East Side, a tenant advocacy group, to the offices of the federal and local housing departments.

Debra Cardona, a tenant at Lillian Wald, said both her son and daughter submitted applications in May, but have yet to hear from NYCHA. “What am I supposed to tell them?” she asked federal housing department representative Steve Savarese. “These jobs would have meant that they’d have training and could work for themselves.”

Unfortunately, Savarese said, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development can’t force NYCHA to hire local tenants. The law “sets out goals,” he told the tenants, “but there is no penalty for noncompliance.”

NYCHA wasn’t much more helpful. When the residents arrived at the agency’s executive offices, they ran into Commissioner John Martinez as he was getting into the elevator. “I already know about your letter,” he told them. “I’ll have a response for you in the morning.”

As of a week later, the tenants hadn’t heard back.