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Courtesy of Mayor’s office/Michael Appleton
Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks answers from NYCHA officials after residents of the Woodside Houses were left without heat and hot water at the height of Winter Storm Grayson last week.
By Bill Parry

As Winter Storm Grayson bore down on the city last week, residents of the Woodside Houses were freezing in their own homes as they were left without heat or hot water in the New York City Housing Authority complex at 50-51 Broadway. Tenants in more than 30 NYCHA developments reported heat problems that same day, but Mayor Bill de Blasio went to the Astoria Houses, where 1,357 apartments were affected, with City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and state Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth), and service was restored within four hours, according to NYCHA.

“We had an outage yesterday due to low gas pressure at Woodside Houses,” NYCHA Spokeswoman Jasmine Blake said Friday. “Our staff was able to work with National Grid to restore service in the afternoon and confirm heat throughout the development. We are working 24/7 to provide all residents the safe, warm homes they deserve.”

Van Bramer said tenants at the Woodside Houses deserve to have their heat work when it is supposed to.

“While the visit with the mayor produced quick results for the residents of the Woodside Houses, new boilers must be a part of the capital budget for NYCHA in the near future,” Van Bramer said. “While federal aid to NYCHA lags behind where it needs to be, there is never an excuse for residents to freeze in their own apartments.”

De Blasio toured the boiler room at the Woodside Houses and spoke about his visit during his weekly appearance on WNYC.

“Here’s the bottom line. I went out to Woodside Houses in Queens and actually met with the general manager for all of NYCHA, Michael Kelly, and the guy who’s in charge of all heating for NYCHA. And it’s fascinating to see the challenges they face every day,” de Blasio said. “They’ve got a boiler in one NYCHA development that goes back to 1954. Many others are 30, 40 years, or more older. Look, the blunt truth is because for decades NYCHA did not get the investment it needed, a lot of these boilers are in really tough shape ,but the folks who work at NYCHA do a great job every day figuring out how to keep them going.”

City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that his office will launch a new audit of NYCHA’s heating systems after an initial review found that it has a reported rate of defective boilers that is five times the citywide average.

“Across the city, tenants are suffering without heat and hot water. That’s not an inconvenience — it’s a crisis,” Stringer said. “NYCHA tenants are being left in the cold, in their own homes, by their own government. It’s unacceptable. We cannot not be a city in which those in luxury towers are living in comfort, while those across the street in NYCHA complexes are deprived of heat and hot water.”

The new audit will be Stringer’s ninth probe of NYCHA, more than any other comptroller in at least the last 27 years. It comes after an audit of NYCHA in 2015 that showed problems with maintenance of boilers and heating systems.

“Unfortunately, heating breakdowns happen year after year — and the bureaucracy continues to play whack-a-mole with short-term fixes instead of permanent solutions,” Stringer said. “We need to address this maintenance mess now, because our seniors, children, and families are struggling. That’s why we’re going to be looking under the hood at NYCHA. This is about safety — and equity.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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