Broken fire hydrants need faster repairs

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is not fixing fire hydrants fast enough putting the public and firefighters at risk, according to an audit recently released by Comptroller John C. Liu.
The audit revealed an overall goal of 10 days for repair from the DEP. However, 38 percent of those hydrants surveyed did not meet that goal. The audit showed an estimated 16,433 fire hydrants citywide are in need of repair. Of those, 3,208 are in Queens alone.
“New York City’s firefighters already have a dangerous job, and a malfunctioning fire hydrant represents one less tool that our firefighters have to carry out their duty of protecting lives and property,” said Liu.
According to the DEP, which is in charge of keeping the hydrants functional, among other duties, inoperative hydrants are generally recorded by dialing 3-1-1 and less than one percent of the 109,000 hydrants citywide still need repair.
“The average response time was approximately 15 days to replace high priority hydrants,” said Farrell Sklerov, director of communications for the DEP.
The audit found the wait time in Queens for repairs is an estimated 10.1 days.
“In an effort to improve response times, DEP has set an ambitious, but achievable target of 10 days to repair high priority hydrants in 2009 prior to the audit being initiated,” Sklerov said.
The audit revealed there are 149 work orders for high priority hydrants that have gone from three months to more than a year without being repaired. Hydrants that are considered high priority are those located near a school, hospital, or senior citizen’s residence and are put on the top of the list. The audit found the average time for repairs was 18.3 days during the fiscal year of 2009 as well as 2,314 hydrants were not fixed in more than a month.
Different neighborhoods in the borough, such as Astoria, are among those that have faulty or broken hydrants, sometimes within close proximity to each other. Right off Astoria Boulevard southbound and 27th Street, there is a hydrant that has been broken since the summer, according to residents in the area. Northbound on Astoria Boulevard and 33rd Street, there is another.
“It’s been broken since the summer,” said Robert Glinski, a resident of the area, referring to the hydrant on 27th Street, which has been broken for more than 220 days. “I’m not sure how this happens, since the police is always around the area and we’re a few blocks from the 114th Precinct.”
A spokesperson for the Comptroller’s Office said the DEP had no explanation for why there was such a massive disparity among repairs.
“The fact that the agency had set no bar to measure proper response and did little to track repairs may be the culprit behind the long waits,” said Josiel Estrella, a press officer for the Comptroller’s Office.
The Comptroller recommended for the DEP to improve its response to fixing broken fire hydrants, especially high priority hydrants, and improve its tracking of repairing fire hydrants to better assess and resolve complaints that remain open for extended periods.
“The average response time to repair high priority hydrants is now at approximately seven days citywide, well below our target,” said Sklarev in response. “When hydrants are inoperative, DEP works closely with the FDNY to ensure that there is an adequate supply of water to fight fires and keep the public safe.”

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