Residents of the Fort Independence Houses in the Bronx received an unwanted gift Christmas morning: A lack of heat and hot water. The Kingsbridge Heights building’s 700 tenants are among thousands of public housing residents who have dealt with similar issues since the holiday weekend, when temperatures dropped to single digits, city data shows.
Five New York City Housing Authority buildings with nearly 1,500 tenants were coping with unplanned outages of heat, hot water or both as of Tuesday morning, according to NYCHA’s website. Another eight buildings had heat or hot water restored within the last 24 hours, following unplanned outages.
“We had to take a mattress and put it in the living room so that my son could sleep on it because the rooms are like ice,” Barbara Lauray, the president of the Fort Independence Houses tenant association, told Gothamist Tuesday. “This is ridiculous.”
Lauray said repairs were underway. The city parked two city buses outside the building Monday evening to offer freezing residents a place to warm up, she said.
Gothamist reached out to NYCHA Tuesday morning to confirm that report and to get an update on the status of the building’s heat and hot water. NYCHA has yet to respond.
Fort Independence has been dealing with heat and hot water problems on-and-off since October 2021 and the dilapidated building has previously gained elected officials’ attention. Following the latest outage, Lauray pleaded for more assistance – even a donation of warm blankets would help, she said.
“I don’t care if they have to take these seniors and put them in hotels,” Lauray said. “It’s cold.”
Heat and hot water woes in the winter are a recurring problem in NYCHA buildings. An analysis released last month by the authority’s court-appointed monitor shows the problem got worse in the 2021-2022 heating season. There were 564 unplanned heat outages during that period – an increase of 100 outages from the prior heating season.
The monitor attributed the poor service to NYCHA’s failure to complete a preventative maintenance program in the summer. The report stated that NYCHA had since made “significant upgrades to its overall heating program.”
Other NYCHA buildings currently dealing with a lack of heat and hot water include two East Harlem buildings, UPACA Sites 5 and 6, as well as Marshall Plaza in Washington Heights, Ravenswood Houses in Astoria and a housing complex on Union Avenue and 163rd Street in the Bronx.
Tenants at Lincoln Houses in Harlem had a particularly rough holiday weekend due to flooding from a rooftop water tank spill, in addition to a lack of heat, the New York Post reported.
“High winds on Friday could have potentially caused the water to spill from the roof tank,” NYCHA spokesperson Rochel Leah Goldblatt told Gothamist Monday afternoon. “NYCHA staff responded and shut the water off temporarily as a precaution, inspected the tank, and when no leak was found, refilled the tank to restore water service. NYCHA staff have confirmed that the two mobile boilers on site are functional, and that the buildings have heat, water, and hot water.”
Gothamist is awaiting comment on the status of the heat and hot water in other affected buildings.
NYCHA said all residents should use the MyNycha mobile app or call the Customer Contact Center at 718-707-7771 to initiate a request for repairs.