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17 Brooklyn NYCHA complexes faced 10 or more heat or hot water outages last year

August 14, 2019 Noah Goldberg

More than a dozen Brooklyn NYCHA complexes experienced 10 or more unplanned heat or hot water outages during last year’s heat season, according to data obtained by the Legal Aid Society. The heat season — the time when building owners are required to provide heat to tenants — lasts from Oct. 1 to May 31.

Issues with heat and hot water have plagued NYCHA for years, with 80 percent of residents facing heat or hot water outages during the winter of 2017-2018, according to the Daily News. This past heat season, about 90 percent of NYCHA residents experienced outages. The agency, however, claimed outages were getting shorter and more infrequent.

“This data again demonstrates NYCHA’s daily struggle to ensure that public housing residents have access to working heat and hot water,” said Lucy Newman, a staff attorney with the Civil Law Reform Unit at the Legal Aid Society. “As the landlord, NYCHA has a legal and moral obligation to ensure that these necessary utilities are functioning properly. New York’s heat season is only a few months away and we hope that the Authority is taking the necessary steps to avoid a reprise of last year’s widespread outages that plagued thousands of tenants in every borough.”

Of the 17 Brooklyn complexes that experienced 10 or more unplanned heat or hot water outages, the Independence Towers complex in South Williamsburg faced the most unplanned heat or hot water outages in Brooklyn at 44, with an average outage lasting about 10 hours. The complex faced two outages of more than 24 hours. About a mile away, NYCHA’s Williamsburg Houses had the second most unplanned outages in Brooklyn at 38.

Residents at the Independence Towers were inside wearing three layers of clothing in January to battle the freezing temperature and lack of heat, according to ABC7.

“It’s terrible,” one 82-year-old tenant told ABC7. “I can’t, can’t move around.”

The Independence Towers is one of nine citywide complexes part of NYCHA’s public-private partnership Permanent Affordability Commitment Together program and will be getting “vital improvements to elevators, security, and heating systems” according to a May press release from the agency.

A list of the 10 Brooklyn NYCHA complexes with the most heat or hot water outages in last year’s heat season. Data courtesy of the Legal Aid Society

“Our staff worked night and day to attack this problem and as a result 70,000 fewer NYCHA residents lost heat this winter, we shortened our response time for service interruptions from 23 hours to 9 hours, and outages lasting longer than 24 hours fell by 93 percent,” said NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo in a statement about the outages. “We’re proud of that progress and are already working through this summer to build on those improvements for the coming winter.”

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Heat and hot water outages were down this past heat season from 4,625 in 2017-2018 to 3,559 in 2018-2019, according to NYCHA. The average outage was down to nine hours from 23 the year before, the housing authority noted. NYCHA will be investing $1 billion over the next five years to replace 310 boilers.

The release of the outage data comes months after NYCHA announced that it would be spending $300 million on new boilers to warm 10 complexes across the city. The four targeted complexes in Brooklyn were Cypress Hill, Farragut, Fiorentino Plaza and the Long Island Baptist Houses. Cypress Hill and Fiorentino Plaza had just two outages each this past heat season, according to the FOIL data, and the Long Island Baptist Houses had just one unplanned outage.

Only the Farragut Houses was one of Brooklyn’s most outage-plagued complexes, with 18 heat or hot water outages during last year’s heat season.

NYCHA did not respond immediately to requests for comment on why those four Brooklyn complexes were targeted for upgrades.

Nearly 339,000 public housing residents citywide were affected by the outages, according to the data. NYCHA serves a total of about 381,000 authorized residents, according to a fact sheet they put out this year.

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