By Bill Parry
The scaffolding that has enveloped the Queensbridge Houses for more than a decade is nearly all gone now that the city has completed an $87 million comprehensive roof replacement project on all 26 buildings of the nation’s largest public housing development has been completed — six months ahead of schedule.
New York City Housing Authority Chairman and CEO Shola Olatoye said the dilapidated rooftops, which had not been updated since the 1960s, had been a quality of life issue for the development’s 6,500 residents.
“As we work to preserve public housing for this generation and next, we’re strengthening our buildings with top-to-bottom upgrades — literally,” Olatoye said. “Thanks to Mayor de Blasio’s unprecedented investment in comprehensive roof replacement and facade repairs across NYCHA, Queensbridge residents will see a healthier, cleaner community, with fewer leaks and improved quality of life.”
She pointed out that the dilapidated rooftops had not been touched in more than 50 years and the project also repaired exterior brickwork and replaced window sills. The mayor provided $60 million in funding with the remaining $27 million coming from the federal government.
The work at Queensbridge is part of Mayor de Blasio’s $300 million investment in roof replacement and facade repair on 263 NYCHA buildings citywide.
“Leaks in old roofs are the root cause of mold and other major problems our NYCHA residents face. So we did something no administration has ever done: put $300 million of city money towards major repairs for our residents,” de Blasio said. “Today, we continue to turn a corner and fulfill our commitment to make critical investments that help protect our residents and ensure public housing continues to improve. A focus on infrastructure, investment and increased access guide our ambitious vision for clean and connected public housing.”
Olatoye had dozens of residents applauding as she listed other upgrades underway at the complex, including free broadband access and new LED safety lighting, which is currently being installed as well as CCTV in lobbies and hallways. She also mentioned that first floor retail spaces would be renovated along with a new effort to attract new businesses to the storefronts.
With the heavy lifting of the rooftop replacement project completed, Olatoye is turning her attention to the federal ban on smoking in all public housing units nationwide, new rules that were announced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro last week. She said she is currently studying the rules that are due for compliance in 18 months, which prohibit smoking any lit tobacco products in indoor areas, including apartment units, and in outdoor areas within 25 feet of the buildings.
“We share the goals of the secretary which is to create a safe and cleaner environment for the one in 12 New Yorkers who rely on public housing,” Olatoye said. “People want a healthy home and we want to implement this HUD rule in a fair and equitable way. We’ll work with residents to make it workable.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr