Testimony from Bronx BP Diaz on NYCHA Heat and Hot Water Failures

TESTIMONY OF BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT RUBEN DIAZ JR. BEFORE THE NYC COUNCIL COMMITTEES ON PUBLIC HOUSING AND OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATION
RE: NYCHA HEAT AND HOT WATER FAILURES
The recent “bomb cyclone” that struck the northeast region caused dangerous drops in temperatures across the five boroughs. Nowhere was this extreme weather event felt more dramatically than within NYCHA developments, where nearly half of all boilers are beyond their useful life and many developments are forced to rely on ineffective temporary boilers to provide heat and hot water.
The hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who call public housing home should not be forced to suffer in the cold. Our office has received numerous complaints from residents of NYCHA developments across the borough. When seeking answers on when new boilers would be installed NYCHA advised my office in a meeting on January 18, 2018, that their hands were tied by the procurement process, contrary to recent statements by City Hall. That is no comfort to a family forced to live in a frigid apartment on the coldest days of the year.
I know that the chronic lack of heat and hot water in NYCHA housing is an emergency. Formally declaring a state of emergency is a common sense act and the morally correct action NYCHA can take to streamline the procurement process. Such a declaration would allow your agency to jump-start the procurement process and install much-needed, permanent boilers that are already in the pipeline at a swifter pace.
Further, if some aspect of Federal law hinders the emergency procurement process, it is incumbent upon City Hall, with all its resources at its disposal, to take action and build coalitions for change, not to throw up its hands.
The process to replace boilers in NYCHA developments takes far too long, and does not reflect the urgent need for these critical repairs. For example, the Patterson Houses in The Bronx have been forced to subsist using inadequate temporary boilers since 2011. NYCHA has not even begun the RFP process to replace these boilers, which means that even in a best-case scenario new boilers will be years away. The recent extreme weather event showed us just how vulnerable temporary boilers are to very low temperatures, and we have no reason not to expect similar extreme weather in the future. NYCHA tenants should not have to wait a decade for the basic human right of reliable heat and hot water.
We must act to cut red tape during this time of severe crisis. While the recent announcement of some new funding for boilers is a step in the right direction, the situation remains an emergency, and NYCHA has told our office that red tape ties their hands. An emergency must be declared.
We would not accept this kind of behavior from a private landlord. NYCHA tenants are entitled to warm apartments, just like anyone else.
Treating this situation as the true disaster it is will help provide heat to families faster, and your agency should declare an emergency immediately and show leadership in cutting the red tape at any and all levels of government, that NYCHA has stated deprives residents of adequate heat.
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