Tenants in West Haven are breathing easier after some much-needed improvements were completed to their apartment complexes.
Four new air conditioners and two elevators later, things are looking up at Surfside Apartments, but the improvements had been stalled because, according to the city, the housing authority was mismanaged for years.
The former director, who resigned in 2012, was sentenced in federal court last week for bribery and tax evasion.
"What really amounted to a 20-year crime spree with the resources here that should have been going into capital improvements,” said John Counter, executive director of the West Haven Housing Authority.
Officials said the four elevators between Surfside and John Prete Senior Housing were more than 40 years old.
"They were antiquated. Parts were hard to get. In some cases, the parts had to be rebuilt. They were obsolete parts. It has been a nightmare,” Counter said.
"When the elevators broke down they all complained and you got half of them in wheelchairs, walkers and everything else,” said Ernest Zyjewski, who is a Surfside tenant.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, concerned about the age of the people living at the two facilities, brought together residents and city and state housing officials to tackle the issue, and last December, the process of overhauling the elevators began.
"You get to this age of the folks that are in here and they want to know that they are here with dignity, with respect and that they have good quality of life,” DeLauro said.
Tenants said while the improvements took much longer than they had hoped, they said the changes were worth the wait.
"It makes people want to live here. I'll tell you, I love it, and I've been here 12 years. I enjoy every bit of it,” Zyjewski said.
The city’s housing authority said its work isn’t done.
Officials said they will be looking into Surfside’s plumbing system and possibly replacing the roof.
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