Mold Rampant at Little Havana's Haley Sofge Towers, Residents Say

"I get problems and I can't breathe and I have to go to the hospital," Efron Cotero said

By Keith Jones
|  Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013  |  Updated 11:58 PM EDT
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Residents of the the Haley Sofge Towers are supposed to be enjoying their golden years   but many of them say it's rough living at the apartment complex. Efron Cotero said said his respiratory problems developed since he moved in years ago. Julio Perez from Fast Inspector Services said the mold in Cotero's home is unsafe.

Residents of the the Haley Sofge Towers are supposed to be enjoying their golden years but many of them say it's rough living at the apartment complex. Efron Cotero said said his respiratory problems developed since he moved in years ago. Julio Perez from Fast Inspector Services said the mold in Cotero's home is unsafe.

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Just blocks from Marlins Park sits the Haley Sofge Towers, which house elderly residents. From the outside, the buildings aren't in the best of conditions with crumbled walls and chipped paint, but it's inside that would blow most people away.

Walk through the front door and there's evidence of mold. Base boards are missing. The tile floor is filthy with dirt stains. Through a foyer sits the laundry room with more mold and dirty conditions. The air conditioning duct over the washers is falling apart and has what appears to be a leak.

The residents who live there are supposed to be enjoying their golden years – but many of them say it's rough living.

They are on fixed incomes or living off savings. Most of them don't speak English. And many said the mold in the buildings, including their apartments, has made them sick.

"I get problems and I can't breathe and I have to go to the hospital," Efron Cotero said.

Cotero said his respiratory problems developed since he moved to the county-owned towers years ago. Sometimes just getting a breath is like trying to suck air through a straw. He and hundreds of other residents said the building is sick and infested with mold.

Cotero showed NBC 6 black and fuzzy mold that covers the walls of his apartment. It's especially thick in the bathroom.

Julio Perez from Fast Inspector Services said that in his experience, the mold in Cotero's home is pretty bad.

"When you got mold in a property like this, it's an unsafe property. It's definitely not safe," Perez said. "They have to move from the apartment."

Dozens of other apartments have the same moldy mask. Paint is chipping away. Some air conditioners don't work.

Several elderly residents presented documentation from their doctors depicting severe respiratory illnesses. All of them said they take medication for it. Additionally, they all claim these health issues didn't begin until after they moved into the towers.

Ernesto Garcia visits his mother, who has lived at Haley Sofge for eight years and has since developed respiratory problems. He said the conditions are ridiculous.

"A lot of roaches everywhere," Garcia said. "At night when you walk in here, you hear the rats on the roof."

NBC 6 saw a maintenance crew making repairs, but residents say they showed up only because the media got involved.

NBC 6 took residents' complaints to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro. He said he has visited the towers and has complained to the county.

"We've taken it to the administration level," Barreiro said. "There are a bunch of cases I've elaborated in the letter to the administration, the mayor, and asked them for transfers or to fix the units."

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