By Connor Adams Sheets
Queens fire hydrants are repaired more speedily than those of any other borough in the city, an audit released last week by city Comptroller John Liu’s office shows, but not all hydrants are created equal.
Despite the fact that the average time the city Department of Environmental Protection took to get around to the borough’s fire hydrants in 2009 was only 10.1 days, compared to the citywide average of 18.3 days, the “high-priority” hydrant that took the longest to get fixed out of the ones surveyed was located near the intersection of 116th Street and Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park.
High-priority hydrants are ones located either near a hospital, school or senior citizens’ residence or are the only ones on a specific block. The Jamaica hydrant was out of service, waiting to be repaired, for 368 days, according to Scott Sieber, a spokesman for Liu. When the city does not fix broken hydrants in a prompt manner, the public and firefighters are put at risk, Liu said.
“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,” Liu said in a statement. “Repairs to fire hydrants — especially the ones deemed ‘high priority’ by the city’s Bravest — must be better prioritized and further accelerated.”
DEP, which maintains and repairs the city’s 109,217 hydrants, aims to fix them within 10 days of being reported broken, meaning the department nearly met that goal when taking an average of the 3,208 hydrant work orders issued in 2009 in Queens. But 38 of the hydrants that Liu’s office surveyed did not meet the goal, and the department did not properly track repairs to the life-saving devices, according to the audit, which shows that 2,314 hydrants were not fixed citywideï»¿ for more than a month in 2009.
Staten Island’s hydrants took the longest to fix, an average of 33.4 days each, while Manhattan was only slightly behind Queens at 10.3 days each.
The DEP’s headquarters is in Corona, although Liu’s audit did not cite this as a reason for quicker responses in Queens.
Liu recommends that the department improve its response to fixing hydrants — particularly high-priority ones and that it do a better job of tracking repairs in order to more quickly recognize and address long-standing complaints.
The DEP agreed with most of the audit’s findings,ï»¿ but also highlighted the fact that over the past three years the average number of hydrants out of service was just 0.44 percent, which shows the department’s “efforts are responsive and successful,” according to a response letter written by Kathryn Garcia, DEP deputy commissioner for operations.
“We recognize our important role in protecting the public and assisting the members of the FDNY, who put themselves in harm’s way every day,” Garcia’s letter said. “We continue to work closely with FDNY to ensure that first responders have the water supply they need to fight a fire anywhere in the city. We are meeting that goal.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.