By Bill Parry
As Winter Storm Grayson bore down on Queens in January with its arctic blast and heavy snow, residents of the Woodside Houses found themselves without heat and hot water.
Mayor Bill de Blasio toured the boiler room with elected officials at the height of the storm as the service outages spread to more than 30 NYCHA development that same day.
Last week, the de Blasio administration announced a new strategy to reduce outages and restore heat faster by installing new boilers, hiring more heating staff and external contractors, as well as improving resident communication.
“Every NYCHA resident deserves heat in the winter. Our new leadership at NYCHA has delivered major improvements that will reduce outages and get the heat back on faster,” de Blasio said. “This plan will benefit all 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home, and is only the beginning of more improvements to come.”
Last Thursday, nearly 5,000 tenants at six NYCHA complexes around the city were without heat and hot water. The same thing happened the following day at the Astoria Houses. Residents at the Queensbridge Houses also reported the loss of heat and hot water during the week.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) toured the Woodside Houses with the mayor during last winter’s outages and is hoping for better results as the cold weather returns.
“All 400,000 New Yorkers who live in NYCHA deserve good heat and hot water this winter,” Van Bramer said. “As temperatures drop, I will pressure NYCHA to ensure that my constituents at Queensbridge, Ravenswood, and Woodside Houses are well equipped to stay safe and warm.”
Last winter in New York City was one of the coldest on record, bringing NYCHA’s aging infrastructure to the brink.
“In preparation for this winter season, we have been fully dedicated to ensuring real improvements to keep residents warmer,” NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Stanley Brezenoff said. “While there is no magic wand, our operations team, under the leadership of our General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo, is tackling problems we have immediate control over while looking to the future when we can have more reliable heating throughout our portfolio for all New Yorkers who rely on us.”
De Blasio agreed there is no magic wand.
“I think the truth is we’re not saying we think everything is going to be perfect this coming winter,” de Blasio said. “I don’t think New Yorkers like to be taken down the primrose path. If people want to hear that we’re not out of the woods yet, I am happy to tell them. But we’re not out of the woods yet. I wish I had a different message. But what I can say is I think some real improvement is coming. And I think we can make a real difference.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr