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Tenants at Woodside Houses in Queens denounce monthslong gas outage and ongoing maintenance issues | amNewYork

Tenants at Woodside Houses in Queens denounce monthslong gas outage and ongoing maintenance issues

Photo: Angélica Acevedo

Tenants of Woodside Houses denounced NYCHA for a monthslong cooking gas outage at some apartments as well as other “ongoing” issues with maintenance on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

There are currently six apartments in Woodside Houses that have been without cooking gas since Nov. 5. The outage is attributable to a broken gas cock, according to a NYCHA spokesperson. Residents were given one hot plate to cook with until the gas is fully restored, similar to when tenants at an entire building in Astoria Houses were left without gas for nearly three months.

A group of Woodside Houses tenants and dozens of community members gathered by the management office Tuesday afternoon in a press conference organized by the Justice for All Coalition (JAFC), a grassroots organization based in Astoria and Long Island City.

JFAC said management is not communicating with residents about what caused the outage and when it’ll be fully restored.

“NYCHA [hasn’t] provided any additional support to residents during this time, in the form of assistance with food preparation or rent abatements. Utilities are included in NYCHA tenants’ rents — so this means that tenants are paying for a service they are not using right now,” JFAC wrote in a statement.

Tomasine Reyes, the treasurer of Woodside Houses Tenants Association, is one of the tenants without the service.

“This here, is an ongoing situation,” Reyes said. “It doesn’t start with just me, it started before me, and it just doesn’t stop. It’s not just gas, but that’s a major part of it. We got a lot of tenants that are dealing with other repairs that are not being repaired as they should.”

 

Reyes added that maintenance tickets are often closed without repairs being made, an issue tenants from NYCHA complexes across the city have also reported.

“It’s not fair,” Reyes said. “We pay our rent, we do what we gotta do, but we’re not getting the treatment we deserve … in our apartments, in our living grounds, in our whole development. It needs to be cleaned up, it needs to be repaired, it needs to be done now.”

A NYCHA spokesperson said they are scheduled to install the new gas riser for the six apartments this weekend. Once that work is complete, they will continue the process of restoring gas to those units.

“While we understand gas service interruptions are inconvenient, we also want to ensure our residents’ safety as we work to restore service as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “We ask that all residents continue to use the MyNychaApp or call the Customer Contact Center at 718-707-7771 to create a work order ticket for any maintenance needs, including service interruptions.”

A separate gas outage in six apartment units in Woodside Houses was restored on Jan. 11.

But Woodside Houses is not the only complex without cooking gas.

At Ravenswood Houses in Astoria, six apartments have been without cooking gas since Nov. 19. A NYCHA spokesperson said the outage is due to a raiser valve that was shut off in the basement. They added that after asbestos abatement work is complete this week, they can begin repairing and restoring the gas to those units.

At the press conference, other tenants of Woodside Houses, Ravenswood Houses, Astoria Houses and Queensbridge Houses aired their grievances with repair and maintenance issues they say they’ve dealt with for years.

Catherine Cummings, who has lived her whole life at Woodside Houses, said it took her a long time to get her bathroom fixed – it was finally fixed on Tuesday – but is now concerned that her building’s main door is broken.

“That is very serious. There was a person who slept on my floor and I didn’t know it. So, it’s dangerous,” she said. “When I was a kid this place was heaven. But now, it’s going down, people are going down. They don’t care.”

Other Woodside Houses tenants spoke about maintenance issues that included mice and cockroach infestations, as well as trash pile ups. One tenant said her building doesn’t have water at certain hours of the day, and has a room with mold that management still hasn’t fixed.

She said when she tries to speak to management, they “give you the hand.”

“What’s the hand for? I pay rent here, I want to live comfortably,” she said. “You walk downstairs, there’s trash, there’s mice. It’s too much. It’s really too much.”

Edwin Cadiz, who’s lived in Ravenswood Houses for more than 40 years, also spoke about repair issues similar to the ones experienced by Woodside Houses tenants.

“Every time I go around, the rent goes up, and our service goes down,” Cadiz said.

Annie Cotton Morris, president of Woodside Houses Tenants Association, said the issues extend to NYCHA housing from Long Island City to the Rockaways.

“All our developments are having issues that NYCHA is not addressing,” Cotton Morris said. “We pay rent here, we’re not squatters here, we live here legally, the majority of us. We deserve to live a clean, safe life in our communities. This is not fair to us that do the right thing.”

 

She said a 10-minute walk to get a newspaper takes her two hours because she runs into tenants with issues.

“I already spoke to the managers […] they need to get up off their behinds in that office, come outside and look at what we’re living in, look at how we’re living,” Cotton Morris said. “It’s not fair to us, because we pay your salaries.”

JFAC has been organizing tenants across western Queens’ to fight for their housing rights, calling on officials to fully fund NYCHA and advocating against the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.

Stan Morse, a lead organizer with JFAC, said they are preparing lawsuits against several NYCHA developments in Queens.

“Too many people are suffering for too long, and the only way we’re going to get their attention is to show up and then to stop paying rent,” he said. “I grew up in NYCHA, this is a decades-long problem. We got Joe Biden in office now — Joe Biden, what are you going to do? Who are you going to hire to run HUD [United States Department of Housing and Urban Development], and are you going to fully fund NYCHA? Because nobody should be living in these conditions. It’s incredible, it’s criminal.”

Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, who attended the press conference, said that while “money is an issue, there’s no accountability” from management.

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris introduced the NYCHA Utility Accountability Act in November, after Astoria Houses was left without cooking gas and tenants reported little to no communication from management about a restoration timeline.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Queens Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson, is meant to not only provide relief for impacted tenants, but also provide a financial incentive for NYCHA to fix service outages more quickly. 

If enacted, the act would reduce a tenant’s rent obligation in an amount prorated per day of utility outage, such as gas, heat, water and electric outages, by 10 percent of the tenant’s rent, or $75 per month.

“Ongoing utility outages are unacceptable for any New Yorker, and NYCHA residents should not be expected to pay full rent when they are not receiving the services they are paying for,” Gianaris said. “That’s why I introduced the NYCHA Utility Accountability Act, which would reduce rent obligations during extended utility outages and ensure we treat all our neighbors with respect.”

This story first appeared on our sister publication qns.com.

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