Brooklyn Boro

NYCHA wasted millions on roof repairs that should have been covered by warranty, audit finds

July 26, 2019 Kelly Mena
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer at the NYCHA Ingersoll Houses. Eagle file photo by Kelly Mena
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A new report says the city’s public housing authority wasted millions paying for roof repairs that should have been covered under a warranty — and may still cost the agency an additional $24 million in replacements. 

According to a new audit from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office, covering 2000 to 2010, the New York City Housing Authority ignored roof warranties on more than 98 percent of its work orders. The housing agency was found to only have used its roof-warranty coverage on just 1.3 percent of the roof repairs – instead using public funds in 700 instances. 

When putting new roofs on NYCHA buildings, the housing agency generally contracts with a roofing company for a 20-year warranty. As part of the warranty agreement, NYCHA is responsible for implementing a maintenance program. The warranty required two maintenance checks each year to keep the warranty in effect. 

However, failure to keep up with these maintenance checks voids the warranty, with any subsequent roof repairs and their cost falling onto NYCHA.

NYCHA spent approximately $452 million over 10 years for 715 roof replacements and related work — an average of more than $632,000 for each roof, according to the audit. Yet, in a sampling of work orders reviewed by the Comptroller, repairs that would have been covered by warranty were not, either because of lapsed warranties or ones the agency neglected to take advantage. 

“At a time when every penny counts, NYCHA is essentially lighting every penny on fire by investing millions in roof repairs when it doesn’t have to,” Stringer said at a press conference. 

Example of a deficient roof at the Williamsburg Houses. Photo courtesy of NYC Comptroller's office
Example of a deficient roof at the Williamsburg Houses. Photo courtesy of NYC Comptroller’s office

Auditors inspected 35 roofs across 13 developments including Brooklyn’s Armstrong, Roosevelt, and Williamsburg Houses, which total 11 roofs, and found that 88 percent were observed to have deficiencies like pooling water, roof sag, open seams and damaged masonry. 

They also found that about half citywide, or 19, had significant to moderate deficiencies like ponding water, soft/spongy spots, blisters and cracks among other issues. Based on NYCHA’s reported costs, the comptroller’s office estimates repairs could cost about $24.6 million. 

The comptroller blamed all levels of management at the authority for the lack of proper protocols, citing NYCHA’s outdated 30-year-old roof maintenance rules as the main problem. 

“Some of these positions and some of these individuals that should be looking at these repairs have expired. We still have the same protocols from 1985, meaning nobody has worked to update procedures,” Stringer told the Brooklyn Eagle

Of the 13 developments inspected in the audit, the majority had no copy of the roof warranty and none were in NYCHA’s Maximo system, which manages maintenance requests, or were reported to the manufacturer for any roof deficiencies. 

“The water is actually leaking from the roofs to their apartments. I get complaints every time it rains,” Darold Burgess, tenant association president of the Ingersoll Houses, told the Eagle

In the wake of the report, Stringer issued a series of recommendations that include designating specific personnel to routinely inspect roofs, developing a manual for roof maintenance and updating the IT systems at the authority to be used for recording roof inspections. 

In a letter dated July 17, 2019, acting NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo acknowledged the housing authority’s issues with roof maintenance and claimed that reforms to the system were already underway. 

“While NYCHA agrees with most of the audit recommendations, it should be noted that IT enhancements, new project management system and electronic document storage were initiatives that were already underway, and NYCHA management was aware of some gaps in oversight,” read a public statement issued as part of the report.

Correction (9:25 p.m.): A previous version of this article indicated that approximately $450 million in roof repairs could have been covered by warranty. This was an error. NYCHA spent that amount on roof repairs in the 10-year period. The comptroller reviewed a small sampling and found 98 percent of orders reviewed failed to use a warranty. We regret the confusion. 

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  1. Ro from Park Slope

    There’s nothing like quality of the work done for the City by the lowest bidder. And then the faulty construction hits tax payers over and over again. Perhaps it might be better to select a firm approved by “the better business bureau.”