BY TRONE DOWD
In the wake of last weeks’ snow storm, elected officials are voicing their dissatisfaction with the way in which the New York City Housing Authority and Mayor Bill de Blasio handled the situation, while one Queens councilman has been dealing with the loss of heat at a borough housing development for more than a week.
A total of 40 members of the City Council co-signed a letter written by Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), criticizing the city agency’s response to the lack of heat at various NYCHA properties throughout the city last week.
“We are strongly urging you to propose a capital budget that finally addresses an overwhelming need that has been torturing New Yorkers every winter season: the crisis of failing heating systems in public housing,” the council members wrote in the letter to de Blasio.
The letter acknowledged the federal government’s role in NYCHA’s shortcomings, calling it
“a metaphor for the federal government’s cold indifference to the basic heating needs of NYCHA residents.” However, Torres said that it is the city’s responsibility to ensure that New Yorkers are not freezing in their homes during the coldest months of the year.
“We, as a city, cannot afford to wait for federal funds that will never come while tenants, especially senior citizens, are left freezing to death in their apartments,” Torres wrote.
A total of 11 Queens council members signed the letter, including Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Karen Kolowitz (D-Forest Hills), Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn) and Robert Holden (D-Glendale).
In Southeast Queens, Richards had been working with NYCHA to help residents at the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway for more than a week.
Residents said that the building’s heat has been in and out of service since Dec. 28. According to a report from NYCHA, the initial issue stemmed from two defective pumps that transfer water from a tank to the building’s boilers.
While NYCHA workers were able to repair one of the pumps, the other had to be completely rebuilt. Not long after the repaired pump was up and running, it too broke down and was in need of rebuilding.
Since late December, more additional issues had piled on. The pipe that typically transfers water to the building’s boiler was frozen solid due lack of use. Then, this past weekend, other pipes began to crack as the result of freezing temperatures.
On Jan. 2, Richards tweeted that NYCHA restored heat at Redfern. Since Jan. 4, however, the councilman said that heat has been spotty for some residents.
The PRESS of Southeast Queens reached out to NYCHA for a more detailed update on the housing development. The paper was told on Thursday that there are “no current outages affecting Redfern Houses.”
“For the past week and a half, there have been interruptions to heat, not power, caused by different issues—primarily pump failures and frozen pipes,” a spokeswoman said. “A regional power outage affected Redfern Houses on Jan. 4 in the evening. Power was restored a few hours later.”
Despite the update, a spokesman from Richards’ office said that there were concerns as to how NYCHA was keeping track of the issues. According to Richards, some complaints filed by residents were marked as resolved despite a lack of a solution to heating problems. The spokesman said that Richards is pressuring NYCHA to ensure that communication between constituents and the agency is concise and productive.
Two months ago, NYCHA began work on a $123 million project at Redfern Houses to help build new roofs, elevated electrical infrastructure, boilers and generators designed to withstand inclement weather.