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NYCHA wasted millions repairing roofs covered by warranties: audit

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The agency spent millions of taxpayer dollars on fixes that should have been free

Comptroller Scott Stringer’s audit blasted the housing agency for it lack of rooftop maintenance.
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The New York City Housing Authority failed to make rooftop inspections and repairs at complexes across the city, in some cases spending millions on maintenance that should have been covered under warranties, according to a new report.

In an audit released Friday by Comptroller Scott Stringer, investigators found that nineteen of 35 roofs across 13 developments had “significant-to-moderate deficiencies” such as pooling water, soft and spongy spots, blisters, and open seams on roof structures that damaged masonry. The deteriorating rooftops provide ideal conditions for toxic mold to thrive and puts tenant safety at risk, said Stringer.

“NYCHA’s dysfunction risks the health of the residents and costs New York taxpayers millions—yet NYCHA makes no effort to hold private firms accountable to the guarantees we paid for,” said Stringer.

NYCHA is currently under a court order to clear out mold from apartments, but has struggled to complete the repairs due to leak-prone roofs and aging pipes.

The housing authority’s Capital Project Division replaced each of the 35 roofs over the last 10 years and thus were within the roof manufacturers’ 20-year warranty. Those warranties offer “no-dollar limit” repairs, but because NYCHA did not conduct consistent inspections, maintenance, or inform the private roof companies of needed work, tax payer dollars were spent instead, the audit asserts.

Over a 10 year period, NYCHA spent some $452 million on 715 roof replacements and related work. That’s an average of more than $632,000 per roof, according to the audit.

The audit found that nearly three dozen roofs had “deficiencies” including consistent pools of water.
Courtesy of the Comptroller’s office

In one case, auditors found that NYCHA shelled out $3.7 million to replace eight roofs at the South Beach complex in the Arrochar section of Staten Island even though the roofs should have been covered under a warranty for another ten years.

Between 2009 and 2017, NYCHA used warranty coverage on only 9 out of a total of 709 work orders when repairs were required on roofs during warranty periods. Of those work orders, 700 were performed by NYCHA in-house staff and were done without the oversight or approval of the manufacturer, which could give the companies an out to void the cost-saving warranty.

Even if the city did seek to utilize warranties, shoddy record keeping may have made that difficult. Ten of the 13 developments that investigators reviewed didn’t even have copies of the roof warranty and not a single complex had the full set of documents to meet warranty requirements, according to the audit.

The audit is the lastest in the string of controversies for the embattled housing agency that houses some 400,000 tenants in 325 developments and is currently under the thumb of federal monitor Bart Schwartz through a deal with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. On Monday, Schwartz released a stinging report on the authority, charging that NYCHA must make better use of its resources.

A spokesperson with NYCHA said that the authority is aware of problems plaguing rooftop repairs and that it is taking steps to address the issue.

“The Comptroller’s audit and recommendations are consistent with what the Authority has been aware of and addressing through new systems we are already implementing,” said NYCHA spokesperson Chester Soria.

In a July 17 letter to the Comptroller’s office in response to the audit, NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo acknowledged that there were “some gaps in oversight” and said that efforts to improve record keeping and management are already underway.

"NYCHA is committed to providing safe, clean, and connected communities for everyone who lives in public housing,” Mustaciuolo wrote.