Four months and counting: Queens lawmakers demand NYCHA not charge Arverne Carleton Manor tenants rent amid hot water outage

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, left, stands with Carleton Manor tenants, Alisha Robinson, center, and LaWanda Gainey-Johnson at a news conference demanding NYCHA return hot water to all units in the building, on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and state Senator James Sanders Jr. are demanding rent forgiveness for tenants of the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Carleton Manor development in Arverne, as they enter their fourth month without hot water during frigid temperatures. 

Richards and Sanders were joined by current and former tenant association leadership and building tenants for a press conference on Monday, Feb. 7, outside of Carleton Manor, located at 74-15 Beach Channel Dr., urging NYCHA to resolve the issue as soon as possible. 

The Carleton Manor housing development run by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has had units without hot water since November 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

For 56 days, residents have been boiling pots of water on a stove in order to bathe, according to Richards. 

“It’s the city’s fault for acting like a slumlord who thinks they can get away with dehumanizing our residents in Carleton Manor House. We don’t want to hear the progress NYCHA is making or that a certain percentage of people have gotten their hot water back,” Richards said. “This problem has existed since November and it’s February. We’re in the middle of winter. Why has it taken four months to figure this out? That tells me NYCHA is completely incompetent or they couldn’t bother to offer basic services to its residents. I think it’s both. It’s about time NYCHA started treating its residents with respect and fairness.” 

The borough president is requesting that Carleton Manor residents should not have to pay rent until May as repairs are ongoing, matching the amount of time they’ve had to pay rent this winter despite not having hot water. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards speaks at a news conference outside the Carleton Manor NYCHA development demanding the agency return hot water to all units in the building, on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Dozens of tenants have filed a petition in Housing Court seeking to force NYCHA to make repairs at the 174-unit building. The Daily News first reported the story that NYCHA hired an unlicensed plumber to oversee repair work on the building, and the plumber has yet to fix more than 50 apartments.

According to Richards, NYCHA officials said they’re working to repair those units by the end of this week. 

Tenant Lawanda Johnson-Gainey, president of the resident council, says it has been a struggle not having hot water. 

“Most have hot water and some don’t,” Johnson-Gainey said. “We’re now dealing with low water pressure — when we turn on the shower, it trickles down and you can’t take a shower. We’ve been fighting for this for a long time and we’ve been on and off since before November, but it’s just been a lot.” 

According to Alisha Robinson, the situation has persisted for more than four months and tenants had no idea when they would get hot water again. 

Although a new boiler system was installed, Robinson says the water was still cold at 40 degrees and was told that her shower head needed to be replaced. 

“What does changing the shower head have to do with the water that’s coming from the shower head?” Robinson said. “Why aren’t you going onto the inside where the water is coming from, instead of where it’s coming out of? That makes no sense to me.”

According to Robinson, after some work was completed in her bathtub, she was relieved to have some hot water to wash dishes, take a shower and bathe her dog, Snicker.

“When I got in the water I said, ‘Oh my god.’ I got excited and when it stayed that way, I got even more excited,” Robinson said. “It’s a necessity to have hot water.” 

Alisha Robinson, resident of the Carleton Manor housing development, speaks to reporters after a news conference demanding NYCHA return hot water to all units in the building, on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

As she entered the building and walked down the hallway, Robinson pointed out water damage on the ceiling.

“At night, sometimes there’s a big puddle on the floor because water is leaking from somewhere, but they came in and fixed it a couple of months ago and it looked nice,” Robinson said. “They had replastered it, but now it’s back to how it was before.” 

Water damage on the ceiling of the lobby in the Carleton Manor NYCHA development on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Sanders, who called out NYCHA on its incomplete lack of services, said Carleton Manor has had problems in the past, including providing heat for tenants.

“For many, this has been going on for so long. The latest outrage is the hot water. When are we going to get our act together? NYCHA, you told me that you needed more money, and I stood with you on every budget request. Now I need you to stand with my bosses here, and they have a simple request. Today, it’s not just simply hot water, but hot water you can see and feel. I am glad that my neighbors said they will not suffer in silence,” Sanders said. 

State Sen. James Sanders Jr. speaks at a news conference outside the Carleton Manor NYCHA development demanding the agency return hot water to all units in the building, on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

In a statement, Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers, who represents Arverne, said her office will not rest until residents in public housing are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

“NYCHA tenants deserve basic housing services, and the persistent interruptions of those services are the unacceptable result of decades of divestment and neglect. Rockaway is a coastal community, and when it is cold in New York City, it’s even colder on the peninsula. Heat and hot water outages throughout the winter are particularly dangerous for our residents,” Brooks-Powers said.

Powers said her office has been closely monitoring the systemic issues at Carleton Manor and other NYCHA residencies in the district.

“We are working with our government partners at NYCHA to ensure that outages are flagged and resolved as quickly as possible and that our residents remain warm and safe,” Brooks-Powers said.

According to NYCHA, Carleton Manor residents do have hot water and the building has been and remains a priority, as numerous actions have been taken since November 2021 and external partners, including National Grid, have been consulted to identify the root cause of the problem.

“This problem stems from decades of neglect due to disinvestment, therefore any diminution in funds will only lead to further deterioration of buildings and services. NYCHA staff have been working around the clock with outside vendors and experts to address the underlying water temperature and pressure issues,” a NYCHA spokesperson told QNS.

This ongoing work has been underway since November 2021 by NYCHA plumbing teams, skilled trades and development staff, as well as external vendors to troubleshoot the aging and severely underfunded infrastructure, according to NYCHA. This was in addition to testing the circulating pump and return lines in the crawl spaces, as well as checking for improperly installed washing machines and faulty shower heads.

NYCHA has replaced shower bodies in 115 out of 170 units and 15 units still need residents to provide access. In 40 units, NYCHA said they cannot do the replacements until the shutoff valves are repaired for the O, P, Q and R lines. This was discovered when the plumbers went to start the work. The lines could not hold the water.

NYCHA is scheduling repairs for Thursday, Feb. 10, and there will be no heat or hot water on that day. Following the valve repair work, tenants will be contacted so that NYCHA can access their apartments. Without access, NYCHA says the work cannot be completed. When the entire lines have been replaced, residents can access their apartments.