Queens lawmakers gathered at the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Woodside Houses on Thursday, Jan. 27, to call on the agency to restore the heating plant that had been damaged as a result of Hurricane Ida in September.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Councilwoman Julie Won, state Senator Jessica Ramos, Deputy Queens Borough President Ebony Young and others toured the building after numerous complaints of no heat or hot water during the cold months.
New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents are awaiting funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to repair the damage. In the meantime, residents have been relying on mobile boiler units that have reportedly not provided adequate heat.
“NYCHA had months to prepare in advance to repair the heating plant at Woodside Houses. Heat outages during the coldest months are unacceptable — residents are left with no choice but to use dangerous space heaters or stovetops to keep themselves warm,” Won said. “NYCHA should release a long-term solution instead of unreliable mobile boilers. FEMA and HUD must make funding the repair of the heating plant a top priority for the health and safety of everyone at Woodside Houses immediately.”
The Woodside Houses consist of 20 buildings in the NYCHA complex with nearly 2,900 residents. Twenty hot water outages have been reported since September, including 11 separate heating outages this winter. According to Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who also attended the walk-through, NYCHA is “the worst landlord in the city.”
“The heating and hot water outages at Woodside Houses are at once entirely unacceptable and entirely predictable given NYCHA’s history of mismanagement,” Williams said. “The city has an obligation to tenants in Woodside Houses and at NYCHA complexes across the city to provide safe, quality housing by immediately making these repairs and providing tenants with protections against freezing temperatures until the heat is back on.”
In a statement, Richards mentioned that during the colder months, it is unacceptable that residents cannot rely on hot water and heat.
“NYCHA has had almost five months to fix this problem, so far without success. It needs to step up to the plate and complete its heating plant repairs so that Woodside Houses residents have the reliable heat and hot water they deserve and are entitled to,” Richards said.
Currently, six apartments in the Woodside Houses have been without cooking gas since Nov. 5. Last week, a group of tenants gathered to protest the extensive outages. One tenant and the treasurer of the Woodside Houses Tenants Association, Tomasine Reyes, is living in one of the apartments without gas.
“It’s not fair,” Reyes said. “We pay our rent. We do what we gotta do, but we’re not getting the treatment we deserve … in our apartments, in our living grounds, in our whole development. It needs to be cleaned up. It needs to be repaired. It needs to be done now.”
NYCHA responded to the criticism saying the agency spent over $1.4 million in repairs on the Woodside Houses boiler since Ida.
“Tropical Storm Ida damaged the main boiler at Woodside Houses after it was submerged in over five feet of water, causing a hot water outage for tenants,” said a statement provided by NYCHA. “NYCHA has since installed two mobile boilers and a third was delivered to the development after the past two weekends, where there were extreme cold temperatures. The boilers are expected to be brought online in February and once they are online, the mobile boilers will be taken offline in stages.”