Tuesday, November 12, 2019

WILLIAMS CALLS FOR ANSWERS AND REFORMS ON PLANNED NYCHA HEAT OUTAGES


  Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called for answers and policy reforms today after the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) planned to shut off heat at four developments as temperatures were set to hit seasonal lows for the year. The letter follows reports regarding expected outages at Castle Hill Houses (Bronx), Campos Plaza 2 (Manhattan), Fulton Houses (Manhattan), and the Whitman Houses (Brooklyn), where repairs were rescheduled for November 15th, and would leave 1,600 residents temporarily without heat. 

In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with the NYCHA General Manager, Chair, and federal monitor, the Public Advocate questions why these repairs were not completed before heat season began, and what other developments are subject to outages, stating "I appreciate postponing these outages by a few days, but the people living in these units are not just numbers - they are human beings with families and lives to live."

He further proposes reforms including temporary heat centers and/or relocation for residents facing heat and hot water outages, adequate notice to residents about planned repairs, a prioritization toward repairs taking place during warmer months, and expediting the installation of new boilers. 

Williams has previously passed legislation requiring that during 'heat season,' which spans October 1 to May 31:
  • Between 6:00 A.M. and 10:00 P.M., inside temperatures are maintained at a minimum of 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees.
  • Between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M., indoor temperatures must be maintained at a minimum of 62 degrees, regardless of the outdoor temperature.
The full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here.
November 12, 2019

The Honorable Bill de Blasio
Mayor 
City of New York
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Bart Schwartz
Chair
Guidepost Solutions
415 Madison Avenue, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Gregory Russ
Chair
New York City Housing Authority
250 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

Vito Mustaciuolo
General Manager and COO
New York City Housing Authority
250 Broadway
New York, NY 10017
Dear Colleagues:

I write regarding reported, planned heat outages for more than 1,600 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents that were initially scheduled to commence this morning.

As you know, NYCHA announced planned heat outages at certain buildings in the Castle Hill Houses (Bronx), Campos Plaza 2 (Manhattan), Fulton Houses (Manhattan), and the Whitman Houses (Brooklyn) to make planned repairs. These outages would have covered more than 600 units across the four campuses on a day when temperatures were predicted to drop to as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit with the possibility of snow. Though these planned outages were ultimately postponed until November 15 (when temperatures are predicted to be above freezing), other NYCHA tenants have not been as lucky - as more than 7,000 residents at NYCHA developments went without heat or hot water due to unexpected outages last Friday while temperatures fell to near-freezing levels. As such, I am concerned that NYCHA has failed to properly prepare all developments for the cold weather season, exposing some of our most vulnerable residents to frigid temperatures in their own homes. And as of this afternoon, thousands of NYCHA residents, including nearly 3,000 at the Lincoln Houses alone, are without heat and/or hot water as temperatures continue to drop due to unplanned outages.

Press reports show several residents expressing shock that, suddenly, their developments would be without critical services (even for repairs). I'm concerned that, every heat season, we're simply not doing enough without our own ability.

Why were these repairs not completed before heat season began? What other developments are subject to outages? I appreciate postponing these outages by a few days, but the people living in these units are not just numbers - they are human beings with families and lives to live.

To ensure New Yorkers retain their right to heat and hot water, I urge NYCHA to make the following policy changes immediately: 

  • For any heat or hot water repairs scheduled to last longer than 10 hours, NYCHA must move residents into hotels or another suitable temporary residential unit for the duration of the repairs, and not at any resident's expense. For any heat or hot water repairs planned to last for fewer than 10 hours, NYCHA must provide residents with access to a temporary heating center at or near the development, and not at any resident's expense.
  • Prior to all scheduled heat and hot water repairs, NYCHA must provide at least two weeks' notice to all affected residents that heat and hot water will be unavailable.
  • NYCHA must prioritize and schedule all vital heat and hot water repairs during warm weather months to ensure residents have heat during the fall and winter.
  • NYCHA must upgrade its online Service Interruptions Overview portal to provide residents with an estimated timeline for completion of the repairs.
  • The federal monitor should work to expedite the installation of new boilers at 25 developments using the $363 million he approved earlier this month and ensure these boilers are installed prior to the stated 2023 deadline

For any questions or further discussion, please contact Nick E. Smith, First Deputy Public Advocate for Policy, at nsmith@advocate.nyc.gov. Thank you very much for your time and your consideration.
 
Sincerely,

Jumaane D. Williams
Public Advocate for the City of New York

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