Comptroller Says NYCHA Tenants 5 Times More Likely To Lodge Complaints

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Falling temperatures and rising frustrations continue to grip residents living in public housing in New York City.

No-heat complaints in dozens of New York City Housing Authority developments this past week caught the attention of the city comptroller.

With socks, robes and layers of clothing on, it was survival gear inside one tenant’s no-heat apartment Saturday at LaGuardia Houses, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.

“It’s cold, yeah,” she said.

Neighbor Yvonne DeLeon shared a photo of her 2-month-old grandson, Liam Gonzalez, and the electric space heater used to save him from injury, even death, from the cold inside the Lower East Side tower operated by NYCHA.

“Sometimes it just doesn’t work,” Linda Cherry said. 

NYCHA has long been in the hot seat over broken boilers, water problems and more. Now, City Comptroller Scott Stringer says the problem is worse than anyone knew – propelling him out into the late-morning cold Saturday to announce the ninth NYCHA audit of his tenure.

“Now, we are calling on them today to say enough is enough. We’re going back in, we’re going to do a top-to-bottom review of this crisis, and we’re finally going to get the results we need,” he said.

The audit comes after a 2015 review found more than a quarter million complaints, WCBS 880’s Ethan Harp reported.

Stringer said over the past week, complaints and reports about non-functioning heat and hot water were lodged by tenants in more than 30 NYCHA developments.

“When tenants are deprived of heat and hot water, that’s not an inconvenience, that’s a tenant emergency,” he said.

“If NYCHA was a private landlord, they would be on the worst landlords list,” added housing advocate Lashawn Henry, of East Harlem.

Read More: ‘This Is Ridiculous,’ Bronx Public Housing Residents Say NYCHA Left Them In The Cold

The comptroller said his staff uncovered an alarmingly high number of boiler breakdowns in NYCHA buildings, saying the incidents are more common than in privately owned buildings.

“If you live in NYCHA, 40 percent chance you’re in a building with a defective boiler. But for people who don’t live in NYCHA, it’s just seven percent,” he said.

“We can’t be a city where those in luxury towers are living in a total comfort, while NYCHA residents across the street are left in the cold,” he added.

When asked about Stringer’s claim that heating problems in its buildings are five times the city average in private sector buildings, a NYCHA spokeswoman told CBS2 the authority blames the problems on aging infrastructure and the need for $2 billion worth of repairs.

On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said temporary fixes include bringing in mobile boiler units short term. Long term neglect, he warned, make it a cruel game of whack-a-mole and funding is catching up slowly.

“Sometimes they need to get parts, including parts for boilers that the manufacturer has gone out of business,” he said.

NYCHA said it will corporate with the comptroller’s audit, saying everyone wants the same thing – safety, cleanliness and, especially right now, dependable warmth.

The authority also said it was working to restore heat at four locations — three in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn — Saturday evening.