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Exclusive: Stuffed monkey found hanging with noose around its neck inside Brooklyn NYCHA building

Exclusive: Stuffed monkey found hanging with noose around its neck inside NYCHA building
Exclusive: Stuffed monkey found hanging with noose around its neck inside NYCHA building 02:22

NEW YORK -- Neighbors in a Brooklyn apartment building are demanding accountability after one tenant, who is Black, found a stuffed monkey hanging from a ceiling light fixture, with what appeared to be a noose around its neck.

The display of blatant racism was discovered in February at the Boulevard Houses on Schenck Avenue in East New York.

Kim Darkens told CBS New York's Derick Waller she found it because contractors working to rehab the building, after a devastating fire on New Year's Eve, left her door wide open, with no workers in sight.

"It brought me back to slavery times when they were hanging people from the tree," Darkens said, "And I'm in here saying to myself, what does that mean? Somebody trying to get me?"

Joseph Serrano said his door was also left open. The few belongings the fire didn't destroy wound up stolen. Serrano invited a CBS New York camera into his apartment, which remains ravaged by fire two months later.

"This case right here, the gray case, is where I have all my tattoo equipment and they ended up going through it like savages," he said.

And on top of all that, the elevator's been out of service for months and, sometimes, so are the stairs.

Neighbors shared a video showing a man trapped on his floor when the stairwell door got jammed, finally relying on firefighters to get him out.

CBS New York reached out to the New York City Housing Authority for an on-camera interview. A spokesperson refused, only issuing a statement that reads, "We will refer you to the NYPD at this time, as this is an active investigation."

Lawmakers at the city and state level say that kind of response is indicative of a larger problem with transparency at NYCHA.

"NYCHA has been...they disappeared! We don't see them anywhere," City Councilman Chris Banks said.

State Assemblywoman Nikki Lucas has been holding weekly Zoom meetings with tenants and said the agency is not doing proper oversight of the private developers in charge of the construction.

"If they cannot continue this in a respectful, dignified manner for our community members, then we're asking for their removal," Lucas said.

Neighbors are also demanding accountability for the blatant display of racism.

"I don't know who did it," Darkens said, "and it's frustrating and it's very scary."

A spokesperson for AVK Contracting Corp, the subcontractor working on the building, told CBS New York, "We were outraged to hear about our employee's unacceptable behavior, which violates our organizations zero tolerance policy. The employee was immediately terminated and we will work with the NYPD to investigate this incident further." 

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