Last winter was one of the coldest on record in New York City and for many residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments, one of the most tortuous. More than 80 percent of NYCHA tenants were forced to endure heat outages that lasted 48 hours on average during cold fronts between October 2017 and January 2018. This year, the de Blasio administration has announced several improvements across NYCHA developments that aim to reduce the number of outages this winter and restore heat faster when they do happen.
“Every NYCHA resident deserves heat in the winter. Our new leadership at NYCHA have delivered major improvements that will reduce outages and get the heat back on faster,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This plan will benefit all 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home, and is the only the beginning of more improvements to come.”
The outages that plagued tenants last winter resulted in a class-action lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society, demanding that NYCHA issue affected tenants rent refunds. This year, the authority has carried out “major improvements” that include 50 new heating technicians, increased contracts with skilled labor who can provide “additional expertise as needed,” and five new mobile boilers that will be deployed during emergencies. Additionally, there is a new robocall system that will dial residents once heating repairs have been made. If a resident has not had heat restored, the automated call will give them the option to report the issue before the work order is closed.
The city also makes mention of targeted improvements that will affect 87,000 NYCHA residents. These include replacing boilers at 12 developments, repairing three other boilers, partnering with third-party agencies to provide faster fixes, and equipping 7,600 senior apartments with new window balances that lock in heat.
“While there is no magic wand, our operations team, under the leadership of our General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo, is tackling problems we have immediate control over while looking to the future when we can have more reliable heating throughout our portfolio for all New Yorkers who rely on us,” said NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Stanley Brezenoff.
However, even on the first frigid day of the season, NYCHA residents are stuck facing heat outages. According to NYCHA’s website, the Hammel housing development in Far Rockaway and the Rangel development in Harlem are both facing heat and hot water outages that affect nearly 4,000 residents.
“It is disappointing but not surprising that on the first frigid day of the year, 4,000 NYCHA tenants are suffering unplanned heat and hot water outages,” said attorney Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society. “Today is not a promising start, and we hope that the City is equipped to avoid a reprise of last year’s nightmare.”
In April, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on NYCHA in order to expedite critically-needed repair work. He also called for the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee repairs at NYCHA facilities citywide and to delegate the dispersement of $250 million in funding for the repairs.