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Most NYCHA developments suffered heat and hot water losses this winter

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87 percent of NYCHA apartments faced heat or hot water outages during the winter, new data shows

Several NYC housing authority (NYCHA) buildings in Manhattan. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Last winter, when NYC faced several different bouts of extreme cold, thousands of NYCHA residents experienced hot water and heat outages, statistics show.

New data obtained by the Legal Aid Society shows that 87 percent of the embattled public housing agency’s 174,000 apartments went without heat or hot water at some point last winter, the New York Post first reported.

Obtained through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, the data shows that between October 1, 2018, and May 31, 2019, 338,918 residents went without heat or hot water, affecting 259 of 326 NYCHA developments. There were 3,559 outages in total during that period: 2,341 hot water outages and 1,218 heat outages, the data shows.

“This data again demonstrates NYCHA’s daily struggle to ensure that public housing residents have access to working heat and hot water,” Lucy Newman, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, said in a statement. “As the landlord, NYCHA has a legal and moral obligation to ensure that these necessary utilities are functioning properly.”

The numbers also show that developments most affected by these outages during the winter season included Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side and Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses in the Bronx.

But NYCHA says the numbers have actually decreased compared to last year.

“Our staff worked night and day to attack this problem and as a result 70,000 fewer NYCHA residents lost heat this winter, we shortened our response time for service interruptions from 23 hours to 9 hours, and outages lasting longer than 24 hours fell by 93 percent,” Vito Mustaciuolo, NYCHA general manager, said in a statement. “We’re proud of that progress and are already working through this summer to build on those improvements for the coming winter.”

With the winter approaching, advocates are hoping the authority takes action to avoid repeating these instances. “New York’s heat season is only a few months away and we hope [NYCHA] is taking the necessary steps to avoid a reprise of last year’s widespread outages that plagued thousands of tenants in every borough,” Newman said.

As part of a five-year plan, NYCHA—which is now under the 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. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plan includes several other goals regarding lead-based paint abatement, mold incidences, elevator service, and trash collection.