Western Queens elected leaders stood with residents of the Woodside Houses in a cold rain Wednesday morning, Oct. 5, to demand the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) make permanent fixes to the development’s damaged heating plant.
The Woodside Houses consist of 20 buildings in the NYCHA complex with nearly 2,900 residents. Residents alerted local officials that since Hurricane Ida in August 2021, they have lost heat at least 11 times and were left without hot water in their homes at least 21 times. This was after NYCHA promised to repair the heating plant in April, but instead provided three temporary mobile boiler units.
“Yesterday and the day before we started to hear complaints as soon as the weather started to get cold that there’s no heat or hot water,” Councilwoman Julie Won said. “We stood in the same spot last winter when NYCHA promised to fix the heating plant by April. It is now October, and Woodside Houses residents are now facing another brutal winter without heat and hot water. This is unacceptable.”
QNS reached out to NYCHA and is awaiting a response.
“For 10 months, we’ve tracked outages at Woodside Houses, and yet we still see the same negligence today that we saw 10 months ago,” Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas said. “Residents are tired of being used as political props and then ignored when their basic needs are not met.”
State Senator Jessica Ramos grew up around the corner from the complex.
“I wish we could say these heating issues at Woodside Houses stemmed from Hurricane Ida, but the reality is the tenants here have been dealing with this for as long as I can remember,” Ramos said. “As a child in the neighborhood, I would have to wear a coat indoors during my playdates with friends who lived here. Every other landlord in the city is held to the expectation that they maintain humane and dignified heating standards, so why should NYCHA be an exception?”
Assemblyman Brian Barnwell also grew up nearby at the Boulevard Gardens Apartments.
“For years, my colleagues and I have been arguing with two mayors and their teams regarding the repeated no heat and no hot water complaints at Woodside Houses,” Barnwell said. “Instead of the city resolving the issue, we have been ignored and yelled at by their staff for making complaints. The problem has only become worse, and people are suffering.”
Resident Jean Chappell said that she and many other seniors in the complex cannot bear another winter without proper heat.
“I am 78 years old, and I’m fighting cancer. We have no barriers between the brick and our walls, so when the walls get cold, they stay cold,” Chappell said. “All I want is heat to keep my bones warm and to keep my grandkids and my great grandkids [warm] when they come to visit.”
Sunnyside Community Services Executive Director Judy Zangwill called on NYCHA to find a permanent solution to the problem.
“Tenants, including the children we serve at the Woodside Houses Community Center, deserve better,” Zangwill said. “I am especially concerned about the continued hardships young people are facing and the impact that it will have on their learning.”
State Senator Michael 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% of the tenant’s actual rent or $75 per month. Affected utilities include gas, heat, water and electric service. In addition to providing relief for impacted tenants, the legislation would provide a financial incentive to fix service more quickly. The legislation passed in the Senate and awaits passage in the Assembly.
“We’re here to tell NYCHA loud and clear, stop lying to us, stop lying to the people who live here,” Gianaris said. “Winter is coming. Get the heat on and let these people live a dignified life as they deserve.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.