• December 13, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Elected officials bring on the heat

City congressional delegation pens letter demanding heat for NYCHA

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:44 pm, Thu Dec 5, 2019.

The New York City Congressional Delegation demanded adequate heating for low- and moderate-income public housing residents on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

Led by Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) and Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Queens), the delegation sent a letter to New York City Housing Authority Chairman and CEO Gregory Russ to ensure that residents are provided with consistent and sufficent heat this winter.

“It is completely unacceptable for any resident to be forced to live in these cold, and often, unsafe, conditions,” wrote the delegation. “Many of our constituents are already reporting heating outages in their NYCHA units.”

The congressional delegation got an amendment passed as part of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act in 2016, which directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to establish minimum heating guidelines for federally supported public housing units. The guidelines were issued on Nov. 19, 2018, but NYCHA has failed to maintain working boilers or a proper temperature a year later, according to the delegation.

NYCHA is home to approximately 380,000 residents within its 316 developments, according to the delegation’s letter, and is the largest public housing authority in the nation.

NYCHA was required to establish an Action Plan for each development that outlined the agency’s course of action in response to heating outages, data on previous outages, availability of on-site and remote maintenance personnel and response times. The Action Plan is under review by the federal monitor, but NYCHA has not provided the plan to the delegation despite the members’ numerous requests.

In an emailed response to a Chronicle question, NYCHA Chief Communications Officer Barbara Brancaccio stated that the housing association has already made systemic changes to address the issue.

“There are 2,351 buildings in NYCHA’s portfolio and infrastructure outages are the result of years of financial disinvestment in these aging buildings,” said Brancaccio. “We have worked diligently with the Monitor’s team to create an action plan that establishes a new model for operations including proactive heating system maintenance, hiring more technicians in order to ensure 24/7 coverage including roving teams, and implementing a 24/7 heat desk and a rapid response protocol, which along with improved reporting and communications, has already led to fewer unplanned outages and quicker restoration times.”

Despite NYCHA’s promises, elected officials request that action be taken quickly.

“As the cold weather rolls in this year, it is outrageous that elected officials must once again urge NYCHA to do what they are legally and morally obligated to do,” said Councilmember Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica). “It is inexcusable that thousands of New Yorkers pay rent but are not afforded consistent heat and hot water. NYCHA needs to start treating the children, seniors, adults and families that live in their facilities as if they matter because they do. These buildings are in crisis and NYCHA must take the necessary steps for immediate repairs.”

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