Last month, data unveiled by nonprofit Legal Aid Society showed that while NYC faced several bouts of extreme cold, thousands of residents of New York City Housing Authority buildings experienced hot water and heat outages last winter. Today, on the first day of heat season (a city-designated period that runs from October 1 to May 31), advocates are pushing city and state lawmakers to fast-track capital funding to address the embattled agency’s utility needs.
According to a 2018 Physical Needs Assessment Report, NYCHA needs $3 billion to upgrade its heat and hot water systems. Data obtained by the Legal Aid Society last month revealed that during last year’s heat season, 87 percent of NYCHA’s 174,000 apartments went without heat or hot water between October 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019.
“Last heat season was a disaster for our clients in public housing with heat and hot water outages plaguing nearly 90 percent of NYCHA residents,” Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge at Legal Aid Society, said in a statement. “The problem is the lack of substantial funding needed to meet the scope of the problem, and our lawmakers at City Hall and in Albany must finally recognize it.”
NYCHA, which is now under oversight of a federal monitor, agreed to have no more than 15 percent of occupied apartments with temperatures below the legal limits during heating season by October 1, 2024, as part of a five-year Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) fiscal year 2020 plan.
That HUD plan also has specific requirements that go into effect today, as the New York Daily News reports, such as limits on how long it should take to restore heat. Under those thresholds, NYCHA is required to get heat back on within 24 hours.
But NYCHA tenants aren’t optimistic. “We go through this every year,” Lydia Sotomayor, a resident of Baruch Houses, told the Daily News. “I’ll be surprised this winter if we have heat.” In the past, Sotomayor and her family have had to wear coats inside their apartment and boil water to shower in the mornings.
The public housing authority, however, says this year will be different. Back in August, the agency said that 70,000 fewer residents lost heat last winter and that outages lasting longer than 24 hours fell by 93 percent.
“NYCHA is committed to improving on last season’s progress and has fully ramped its preparedness efforts across the city in anticipation for the start of heat season,” NYCHA spokesperson Michael Giardina told Curbed in a statement. “We continue to inspect and replace heating equipment, train additional staff, and strategically place mobile boilers and spare heating parts to allow for quicker repairs that will limit disruptions in heat and hot water service for our residents.”
Aside from the new federal monitor requirements, the housing authority has to comply with the city’s Housing Maintenance Code, and the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, which requires landlords to provide hot and cold water 24 hours a day.