City vows NYCHA tenants will have a warmer winter after ‘troubling’ heat problems

Mayor Bill Bill de Blasio announced a series of changes Thursday designed to ensure NYCHA tenants are warm during the cool season.

De Blasio said the public housing authority has hired 50 heating technicians, acquired five emergency mobile boilers and fine-tuned its customer service hotline system to guarantee complaints are only closed once heat is restored. 

"We want to make sure that as many developments never have an outage, and if they have an outage, it’s resolved right away," the mayor said. 

The city’s new strategies and investments come after more than half of public housing developments lost heat for more than a day last winter, according to city figures. The widespread lack of heat was among several conditions cited in the federal government’s lawsuit and proposed settlement with NYCHA over hazardous conditions in its portfolio.  

The mayor said there were several instances last winter where workers reported finishing repairs on a building’s heating system, but service did not resume in several apartments, and NYCHA considered the work done. To prevent such service gaps, NYCHA’s customer service system will now robocall tenants and verify their heat is working before closing any related work orders.

"We’re acknowledging a problem, that for a lot of us, was troubling," de Blasio said. 

NYCHA will expand the number of developments at which two vendors are contracted to monitor and maintain heat, eventually spending a total of $2.96 million a month on the effort, according to the authority. De Blasio said this makes the workload more manageable for public housing crews. NYCHA workers will, among other things, deploy the mobile boilers at developments, where the heating systems are broken or under repair.

Some are still skeptical the city is fully prepared for the winter. 

As of Thursday, NYCHA had open complaints related to lack of heat or hot water at three NYCHA developments, which collectively house 4,108 New Yorkers, according to Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society, which filed a lawsuit attempting to force the administration to rebate rent for NYCHA tenants impacted by heat loss last year.

"This is a breach of law; and every time the City fails to provide these mandatory utilities, there needs to be some consequence," Goldiner said in a statement. "Today is not a promising start, and we hope that the City is equipped to avoid a reprise of last year’s nightmare.”

De Blasio said NYCHA could not afford to pay rent rebates.