NYCHA: “No Heat..No Hot Water”—Again

By Olivia Eubanks and Lucas Manfield

As has become the new normal, thousands of New York public housing residents went without heat or hot water on February 20, as temperatures dropped below freezing and snow fell across the city.

At the Taft Houses in Harlem, residents reported they had no hot water since that morning. Fliers posted on the walls in the lobby warned of an emergency and said that there would be no heat after 2:30 p.m. The complex houses over 3,000 people in ten buildings. “You can’t even get in the shower: you put it to hot, it’s too cold,” said Jose Ramos, who lives in the complex with his aunt and works at McDonalds.

As of Wednesday evening, a portable boiler was parked in the middle of the development and by about 6 p.m. residents reported that the water had reached “lukewarm.” But the real problem, residents told NYCityLens, is that they lose heat and hot water all the time.


No Heat..No Hot Water signs in Taft lobby
(Lucas Manfield/NYCityLens)

“We’re used to it,” said Kamal Robinson, whose eighth-floor apartment lost hot water.

“Sometimes you wake up to no hot water, sometimes no water at all,” said Kim Allgood, a 12-year resident of the complex.

The all-too-regular problems in NYCHA housing have been gaining increased attention, partly because Lynne Patton, who oversees New York and New Jersey public housing for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is in her second week of living in HUD housing in the region and tweeting about conditions she sees. At the moment she is living in the Frederick Douglass Houses on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. On Tuesday she was briefly stuck in the elevator there, and tweeted  about the experience. She plans to spend four weeks in four NYCHA buildings in all.

More than 400,000 New Yorkers live in over 300 NYCHA developments. Nearly 4,000 public housing residents across the city were affected by heat, hot water, or gas outages on Wednesday as temperatures dipped as low as 27 degrees, according to a Housing Authority website.

Repeated heat and hot water outages, lead paint issues, and other problems have plagued the New York City Housing Authority this past year, leading to the resignation of its chair, Shola Olatoye, in April. Following her resignation, Governor Cuomo called for a state of emergency last April to expedite NYCHA repairs. Mayor Bill de Blasio, for his part, has been calling for more federal funds for NYCHA.

At the end of January, de Blasio and Patton’s boss, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, jointly announced that HUD would install an independent monitor charged with reforming NYCHA, with hiring and firing power. It was after that that Patton moved in to take a firsthand look at living conditions.

Through the last several days, she has been tweeting about the problems she is coming across in the houses where she is visiting. For example: