Groton residents speak out about continuing mold issues and other problems at Branford Manor
Groton ― Branford Manor residents Louann and Andrew Leary stood outside the Thrive 55+ Active Living Center on Tuesday evening and held up large photos of the mold in their apartment.
Louann said she is “kind of fed up” because the mold has been there since she moved into her apartment in 2016, and even before she moved to the complex.
“I moved from one moldy apartment to another,” she said.
Her husband, Andrew, called on the town to do whatever it can to fix the issue and if that means taking away the tax incentive agreement the town and city has signed with Branford Manor L.P., then he said that would absolutely be appropriate.
A group of about 15 residents stood outside the center before the Town Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting to protest the living conditions at Branford Manor and their concerns with the state’s planned sale of the Mystic Education Center. Most of the residents held signs about the Mystic Education Center such as “Reasonable Mystic Oral School Development” and “Stop the Giveaway.”
The Committee of the Whole had an item on its agenda to discuss Branford Manor “with the leadership of a planned Tenants Union for Branford residents,” and to invite Branford Manor leadership to a meeting in October. An update about the Mystic Education Center also was on the agenda.
Residents have spoken out in the past about mold and other issues at Branford Manor, which is a 442-unit housing development that is privately run and subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and located in the City of Groton.
After residents complained about mold and other issues, the Town Council in June reviewed a tax incentive agreement signed in 2017 between the city, the town and Branford Manor Preservation, LP. and decided to send management a letter outlining expectations. At that meeting, Related Affordable, the company that runs Branford Manor, publicly apologized and said it has a plan to address the issue and is working to fix failing pipes that led to mold and moisture issues.
Councilors are planning to invite Branford Manor leadership to the Oct. 25 meeting, according to the agenda.
Branford Manor resident Christina Tejeda held a sign that said “We CANNOT breathe/ Need Action Now!” She said residents just want Branford Manor to stop putting people in hotels and renovate the apartments in a timely fashion so the residents and their families can live there.
During the meeting, six residents spoke to the Town Council about their concerns, including mold, mice, rats, mosquitoes and spiders; a lack of repairs and communication from management, and the impact the living conditions are having on their family’s health. A lawyer for the tenants also was present. Some residents said they remain in hotel rooms provided by Branford Manor. Others said they have returned from the hotels but the problems in their apartments remain.
After each resident spoke and shared their personal story, the audience applauded.
Resident Latasha Burage who has spoken out about mold in her apartment, said she has been placed in a hotel since the end of June or early July so the problem can be fixed, but the issue has not been resolved.
“The smell is horrendous,” she said. “You can’t be there long without coughing.”
Burage encouraged the town to keep digging into the situation.
“Quite frankly, I’m just tired of the whole situation,” she added. “I’m exhausted with it.”
Tejeda said that when she was in a hotel she didn’t use an inhaler or any medication. “Since I’ve been back home, we’ve all been sick,” she said about her family..
Town Mayor Juan Melendez, Jr. applauded the residents for coming forward with their stories and for their courage while Town Councilor Aundré Bumgardner said he was ready to fight with the residents every step of the way.
The meeting was ongoing as of 9 p.m. as councilors were beginning to comment and ask questions.