Jan. 28, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Several Queens lawmakers toured the Woodside Houses NYCHA complex Thursday to examine a broken heating plant that has left some residents without heating and hot water.
Council Member Julie Won, State Senator Jessica Ramos and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visited the complex and called on NYCHA to fix the damaged heating plant that has been broken for months.
They were joined by representatives from the offices of Assembly Member Brian Barnwell and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
The heating plant, which supplies heat and hot water to 2,900 tenants in the 20-building complex, flooded around five months ago during Hurricane Ida and it has been out of order ever since.
Since September, the entire complex has been without hot water on at least 21 occasions and without heating at least 11 times, the lawmakers said, citing city data.
NYCHA has installed two mobile boiler units with a third unit currently being fitted in order to provide heating and hot water to tenants while the heating plant is down, according to the agency.
However, Won said that the mobile boiler units are not reliable, and some residents have been without heat or hot water as temperatures plummet.
“Heat outages during the coldest months are unacceptable,” Won said in a statement.
Won said that residents have been left with no choice but to use dangerous space heaters or stovetops to keep themselves warm.
She said the use of alternative heating methods raises serious safety concerns for residents at the Woodside Houses. Won said that the deadly fire at the Twin Parks NYCHA complex in the Bronx earlier this month was caused by the landlord and building manager neglecting the heating needs of their tenants.
The fire, which was sparked by a faulty space heater, killed 17 people, including eight children.
NYCHA, Won said, has not produced a plan to deal with the heating outages at the Woodside Houses, other than providing the temporary measure of mobile boiler units that have failed residents. She called on the federal government to provide aid to fix the problem.
“NYCHA should release a long-term solution instead of unreliable mobile boilers,” Won said.
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must make funding the repair of the heating plant a top priority for the health and safety of everyone at Woodside Houses immediately.”
NYCHA said that it was not an easy task to get the heating plant back in working order.
The heating plant, according to a NYCHA spokesperson, was badly damaged, since it was submerged in more than five feet of water during the storm.
“NYCHA has spent more than $1.4 million in repairs on the Woodside Houses boilers since Ida, including replacing six boiler burners, a zone valve panel, seven flooded vacuum tanks and two sets of ejector pumps,” the spokesperson said.
“The boilers are expected to be brought online in February and once they are online, the mobile boilers will be taken offline in stages.”
Barnwell, in a statement, said that the situation was not acceptable and called on NYCHA to find a permanent solution.
“The residents of Woodside Houses have been dealing with heat and hot water issues—among other things—for years,” Barnwell said.
“These residents have repeatedly been treated like second class citizens time and time again… but we need action from NYCHA, not excuses, in resolving this issue long term.”
Meanwhile, Ramos said serious changes need to be made with how NYCHA operates.
She said that a bill she is sponsoring in the State Senate would bring accountability and transparency to the agency. Barnwell is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly.
The bill calls for a searchable database to be created for all NYCHA maintenance tickets. She said that this would help easily identify the demand for repairs.
The heat and hot water has been an issue for my neighbors in Woodside Houses long before Ida hit. The residents have been waiting for funding for massive infrastructure overhauls for decades. A #GND for Public Housing cannot wait. pic.twitter.com/bNDKAQk6VB
— Jessica Ramos (@jessicaramos) January 28, 2022