Today the NY Times has an infuriating, in-depth report on the New York City Housing Authority's failure to adequately prepare for Hurricane Sandy, which left tens of thousands of residents without power, heat, or hot water for weeks after the surge. 402 of the NYCHA buildings lost electricity and elevators, and most of them also losing heat and hot water, affecting 77,000 residents. Today's story shows how some of that suffering could have been avoided or alleviated, and enumerates the many ways NYCHA failed to prepare, including:

  • A 2009 report by the city recommended that NYCHA "elevate certain critical pieces of equipment stored in its basements, renovations that were never done."
  • NYCHA did not set up “standby contracts” which allow the city "to quickly secure pumps, generators or other supplies and equipment in an emergency."
  • "Because there was no up-to-date survey of electrical needs, the Army Corps of Engineers, called in to help install generators five days after the storm, first had to visit 100 authority buildings simply to determine what kind of generator each needed."
  • 25 boiler rooms were flooded, leaving over 30,000 residents without heat. But even after new boilers arrived, city officials futilely attempted to reuse motors damaged in the flood.

Linda Gibbs, a deputy mayor who oversees health and human services, admits, “We need a longer-term plan. The city emergency evacuation plan works great for huge numbers. But it does not look much past three or four days." NYCHA is now considering moving its flood-prone boiler rooms and electrical systems above ground, but that's a costly undertaking that would likely require federal assistance. Read the whole article here; it also comes with a companion timeline chronicling the NYCHA response.

And for more on the dreadful public housing situation in the storm's aftermath, here's a chilling photo feature of the dark and dire conditions faced by residents of Coney Island public housing.