Residents of a NYCHA complex in Queens have been without heat and hot water as temperatures have dropped, according to tenants and elected officials speaking in front of the Woodside Houses on Wednesday.
The entire housing complex has been without heat since at least Tuesday, Councilmember Julie Won said at a press conference. Officials said reports of outages started trickling over the last few days, as daytime temperatures dropped below 55 degrees Fahrenheit — the city-mandated threshold for landlords to keep homes heated at a minimum temperature.
“They don’t want us to put our ovens on. They don’t want us to have heaters. All I want is heat to keep my bones warm!” said Jean Chapel, who is the recording secretary of the board for the tenant association and has cancer.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos, whose district also includes parts of Woodside, said heat and hot water outages have persisted through the decades with lagging urgency from the city.
Though some officials pointed to the sheer number of outages at the Woodside Houses since Hurricane Ida alone — more than 10 lapses in heat and nearly two dozen for hot water since August last year — Ramos emphasized that the issues run deeper.
“This is a tale as old as time in Woodside Houses, and it’s a damn shame that the city does not take the well-being, the safety of our neighbors, seriously,” Ramos said. The senator described wearing sweaters and jackets during playdates at the Woodside Houses as a child.
A spokesperson for NYCHA defended the agency’s efforts to rehabilitate the boiler at Woodside and preserve the integrity of mobile boilers installed after Hurricane Ida.
“NYCHA has spent more than $1.4 million to repair the boiler at Woodside Houses, which was compromised by decades of deterioration and flooding caused by Hurricane Ida,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Our staff installed three mobile boilers after the hurricane, which have been providing heat consistently, and have since been working with the Department of Buildings, the utility provider, and several heating and plumbing teams to ensure that our boilers are fully operational.”
But residents said on Wednesday morning that claims that the boilers worked “consistently” were untrue.
NYCHA bears a long history of exposing residents to potentially hazardous and outright dangerous conditions, including mold and lead poisoning, in addition to heat and hot water outages similar to the situation at the Woodside Houses. The federal government appointed a monitor for the city agency in 2019.
NYCHA seized headlines last month for another health-related scandal: the Adams administration walked back an assessment that arsenic had been found in the water of a Manhattan complex, saying results that deemed water at the Jacob Riis Houses unsafe for drinking or cooking were a “false reading” after a high-profile scare for residents. The residents are now suing for $10 million in damages.
A bill from Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris that would require rent reductions for NYCHA tenants who experience disruptions in service passed the Senate in the state legislative session that ended in June. It stalled in the Assembly.
Gianaris, a Democrat, said he and his colleagues in the other chamber were working on shoring up support needed to pass the legislation.