Volume 20, Number 44 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 27 - November 2, 2010
Assembly committee puts N.Y.C.H.A. on hot seat
The State Assembly Housing Committee organized a public hearing on Tuesday, where they interrogated New York City Housing Authority officials concerning questionable repair policies.
Members said they have received numerous complaints from tenants about untended leaks, mold outbreaks and cracks in their ceilings. Michael Kelly, general manager for N.Y.C.H.A., said the Centralized Calling Center, created in 2005, allows the authority to systematically track and follow up on repair requests.
But tenants often have to wait for months until their walls or appliances are fixed.
“Does that mean that I have to wait for an appointment, if water is leaking in my apartment or my toilet is overflowing?” said Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn, who led the discussion.
“Our goal is to respond to an emergency within 24 hours,” Kelly replied.
Urgent requests, he added, must be deemed life threatening, such as gas leaks or floods. According to Kelly, N.Y.C.H.A. sends a handyman to abate the emergency, after which tenants must schedule a follow-up appointment with a specialized trade worker. If they don’t call back, their work order is cancelled.
“Nobody more than N.Y.C.H.A. would like to solve these maintenance repair issues,” said Gloria Finkelman, the authority’s deputy general manager for operations. “But our maintenance worker may or may not be able to fix that leak.”
Several tenants citywide who came to testify shared first-hand accounts of poor living conditions, including ones from Smith Houses and Lillian Wald Houses, both in the Lower East Side.
Nearly 35 percent of Smith Houses residents recently gave N.Y.C.H.A. an “F” for timeliness on repairs.
Miscommunications are exacerbating the repair problems, according to tenants and elected officials.
“So many residents come to me with terrible repair problems – leaks, floods, holes – and have no way to address their problems because of their language barrier,” said Smith Houses resident Chun Yin Chu, a member of the tenant association.
Lillian Wald resident Shirley Burnett can’t sleep in her own bedroom because broken windows let in rainwater. The moisture, she said, makes it difficult to breathe and has caused black mold to form on the walls.
“I used to wake up coughing all the time,” said Burnett. “The fact that these problems are affecting our health is unacceptable.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver didn’t attend the hearing, but did release a statement.
“Residents of public housing are suffering through unacceptable delays in getting maintenance problems fixed in their apartments. The New York City Housing Authority must streamline and improve its process for filing work orders and making repairs so that tenants are not left with half-fixed plumbing or holes in their walls for months on end,” stated Silver.
Silver, who supported a federal law passed last year that will direct millions of federal dollars to public housing, promised to “continue to work with tenants to address these problems.”
Wind farming in the Atlantic
The C.B. 1 Waterfront Committee voted that Trans Elect, Inc. forge ahead with plans to build wind farms in the Atlantic.
Their resolution states, “Trans Elect Inc.’s project to build wind farms off the east coast has received positive attention, and it has been estimated that the wind farms could produce power equal to that of five nuclear power plants without the problems of nuclear waste and potential dangers.”
The Department of Energy predicts that electricity demand will increase by 28 percent by the year 2035. The renewable energy source is especially pertinent because current energy consumption principally relies on nonrenewable fossil fuels, including foreign oil.
Five community members and one public member were in favor of the resolution, and two community members abstained.
“I don’t feel comfortable supporting this – it’s a little judgmental,” said committee member Joseph Lerner. “To me, it’s a little strong, because we haven’t had a full discussion of the impact.”
Member Joel Kopel asked for scientific evidence before voting on the resolution.
Bloomberg vows to restore two-term mayoral limits
Michael Bloomberg, in his third term as New York City’s mayor, announced this week that he supports a two-term limit, which left many people scratching their heads.
“I’m voting to restore it,” the billionaire mayor told the Associated Press and other news outlets on Monday.
City voters will weigh in on the issue once more on November 2.
The mayor managed to convince the City Council to extend mayoral term limits because of the dire circumstances of the economic downturn. He was re-elected in 2009, though many resented his move to change city law.