Bill would cut rent for NYCHA outages 1

Proposed state legislation would mandate rent abatements for residents of the New York City Housing Authority who suffer sustained utility outages.

Earlier this month it was the cooking gas at the Woodside Houses.

In October it was the same thing at the Astoria Houses.

And the gas problems in Flushing’s Bland Houses last summer dragged on for weeks.

Now a pair of legislators from Queens want to give tenants of the New York City Housing Authority a bit of financial relief when the utilities go awry.

Companion bills known collectively as the NYCHA Utility Accountability Act, introduced in Albany by Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson (D-Far Rockaway) would require the city’s housing authority to give a prorated reduction in rent to tenants who suffer sustained interruption of utility service.

Gianaris’s bill, S.1603, is co-sponsored by state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D_Flushing) among others outside Queens. Backers of Anderson’s A.1866 measure include Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth). Both can be viewed online.

“Ongoing utility outages are unacceptable for any New Yorker, and NYCHA residents should not be expected to pay full rent when they are not receiving the services they are paying for,” Gianaris said last week in an email following the outage in the Woodside Houses. “That’s why I introduced the NYCHA Utility Accountability Act, which would reduce rent obligations during extended utility outages and ensure we treat all our neighbors with respect.”

Anderson told the Chronicle back in the fall that he was looking to move Gianaris’ measure in the Assembly.

Raymond Normandeau, a resident of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City and a well-known, vociferous NYCHA critic, said residents sometimes can get similar rent abatements “but it’s not talked about a lot.”

He said the Gianaris-Anderson proposal makes sense.

“When you’re paying rent, you’re not just paying for a concrete slab,” Normandeau said. “You’re paying for hot water. You’re paying for cold water. You’re paying for heat.” He also said it helps to be known for sticking up for one’s rights.

“I never have outages for very long,” Normandeau said.

NYCHA, in a statement, said the sentiment, while understandable, is misguided.

“Gas outages are a symptom of decades of disinvestment in NYCHA’s aging infrastructure,” a spokesperson said in an email. “While we understand the aim of the sponsors, it would be better to support the Blueprint for Change, which will bring meaningful investment into NYCHA, rather than taking a punitive approach. Unfortunately, gas outages will continue to occur until we find the funding to replace the necessary plumbing.”

NYCHA operates 21 sites in Queens.

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