Queens senator introduces ‘NYCHA Utility Accountability Act’ in response to monthlong cooking gas outage at Astoria Houses

Photo courtesy of NY Senate Office of Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris is introducing legislation to provide rent relief for NYCHA tenants who experience utility outages, as a response to the monthlong cooking gas outage in an entire building at Astoria Houses.

The NYCHA Utility Accountability Act would reduce rent payments by 10 percent for the duration of an outage. A few weeks ago, Gianaris called on NYCHA Chair Greg Russ to offer prorated rents to all impacted NYCHA residents at 1-04 Astoria Blvd., in addition to the hot plates they’ve distributed to the 48 households in the building.

“Monthslong utility outages are unacceptable for any New Yorker, whether in private or public housing,” said Gianaris. “NYCHA residents should not be expected to pay full rent, which typically includes utilities, when they are not receiving the service. My proposal would ensure we treat all our neighbors with respect and create financial urgency for NYCHA to make needed repairs on a faster timeline.”

Gianaris’ NYCHA Utility Accountability Act would reduce a tenant’s rent obligation in an amount prorated per day of utility outage by the greater of 10 percent, or $75 per month, of the tenant’s actual rent. Affected utilities include gas, heat, water and electric service.

In addition to providing relief for impacted tenants, this legislation would provide a financial incentive to fix service more quickly.

Astoria Houses residents are not alone in being without gas service, as more than 60 buildings across NYCHA are also without the service — some as far back as November 2019.

Astoria Assembly candidate Zohran Mamdani already signed up to sponsor the bill after taking office in January.

“For many Astoria families, years of willful neglect and routine austerity have rendered public housing uninhabitable. The ongoing utility outages so many in our neighborhood are experiencing are only the latest example of intolerable conditions and unacceptable mismanagement in New York’s public housing system,” said Mamdani. “Yet as these problems persist, every year we throw away billions in subsidies to private developers to build luxury condos for the ultra-wealthy. Only deep reforms to New York’s housing policy can begin to correct this injustice. But we can start by changing our priorities and providing our most vulnerable neighbors with the relief they need and deserve immediately. This bill does exactly that, and I’m honored to support it.”