Bill de Blasio blasts NYCHA repair backlog

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, left, and state Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, right, stand outside the Smith Houses on the Lower East Side. Credit: Anna Sanders/Metro
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, left, and state Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, right, stand outside the Smith Houses on the Lower East Side.
Credit: Anna Sanders/Metro

The city’s Public Housing Authority faces a backlog of nearly 220,000 repairs—including broken air conditioners, smoke detectors and front doors.

“Of all the problems and challenges facing New Yorkers, the thing we hear about the most is repairs going unmade in NYCHA buildings,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in front of the Smith Houses on the Lower East Side.

More than 400,000 New Yorkers live in NYCHA buildings. Those tenants wait nine months on average for repairs, according to a report de Blasio’s office released Tuesday analyzing thousands of outstanding work requests to NYCHA through Feb. 15.

“We would never allow someone in private sector to do every day what the Housing Authority does to its tenants,” de Blasio said.

The report revealed that, on average, more than 5,300 air conditioners went unprepared for six months and smoke detectors and sprinklers waited for repairs for more than 200 days. Some 2,500 doors were unfixed after an average of 150 days.

“People are vulnerable to crime, they’re vulnerable to danger,” de Blasio said, adding, “I don’t think the mayor would like it if the lock to his front door didn’t work.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the housing authority announced an “aggressive” plan to tackle more than 420,000 outstanding repairs in January. Since then, the authority has reduced the number of repairs by nearly 50 percent to 219,584 as of July 1.

For such a decrease, the city would have had to make at least 1,200 repairs every day including weekends. A NYCHA spokesman said 10,000 repair work orders are closed each day, with some 9,000 opened on average per day.

“Over the past months, staff members have directed significant time, energy and resources throughout the five boroughs to resolve numerous maintenance and repair requests allowing the Authority to reduce the outstanding number of work orders,” said the spokesman in a statement.

The spokesman explained NYCHA also redistributed staff and targeted residents with similar repairs in groups. Though NYCHA hired 565 more employees to support the reduction plan, de Blasio remained skeptical.

“NYCHA’s not leveling with the people about what’s really going on,” de Blasio said.

Monique Harris, the secretary of the tenant association at the Smith Houses, said she tries to keep up with repairs in her apartment, but there are some she can’t do on her own.

“Something that you think might be a typical repair, you don’t know how bad it can be,” said Harris, 33, who has an asthmatic 6-year-old daughter. “You don’t know what kind of medical issues a lot of the people have.”

State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, who represents 18,000 public housing tenants on the Lower East Side, said his office constantly hears that basic repairs aren’t made by the Housing Authority.

“We’re going to see some change in the city next year,” said Kavanagh, alluding to November’s election. “But tenants in the city cannot wait until next year.”

De Blasio and Kavanagh called on the city to be more transparent about when and where repairs are made, as well as to prioritize the maintenance that impacts tenant health.

De Blasio said he would consider the city responsible if anyone were to get hurt if an outstanding repair went unfixed.

“It’s become a matter of life and death,” de Blasio said.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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