Nearly A Year After Sandy, Thousands Of Public Housing Residents Depend On Temporary Boilers And Dread Winter

NPR and WNYC reported on thousands of public housing residents in Coney Island, Rockaway, Red Hook, and the Lower East Side who must depend on temporary hot water boilers, nearly a year after Sandy. "I think that the City dropped the ball on this one," Lucy Newman, a Staff Attorney in The Legal Aid Society's Civil Practice Law Reform Unit, told NPR and WNYC. "Twelve months after the storm, it appears that in the buildings that really were hit badly, that nothing has been done."

NPR Morning Edition
WNYC-FM Radio 93.9 New York
October 22th

Radio Host: After Sandy flooded numerous public housing projects the pace of repair was slow, and residents lived in the cold and in the dark for weeks. Nearly a year has passed, and some necessary fixes have still not been made. In our ongoing coverage of “Life after Sandy”; WNYC's Ilya Marritz reports, thousands of residents continue to depend on temporary hot water boilers, and they worry that means another very cold winter.

Ilya Marritz: Hammel houses is a cluster of brown brick apartment buildings, it's right under a flight path to Kennedy airport. Unseen form the air, the houses would look like fourteen off kilter crosses, staked on the narrow rockaway peninsula. Almost two thousand people live here, and for almost a year, they found hot water is unreliable, and unpredictable; here is Katherine Darby:

Katherine Darby: walking around you get hot water, you don’t get hot water around here.

Ilya Marritz: She says to draw a bath, she sometimes has to boil water on her stove, but the next step is not easy. Darby uses a walker.

Catherine Darby: I have to put it on this and get it to the bathroom.

Radio host: So you to put the hot pot of water on your walker..

Catherine Darby: yes.

Ilya Marritz: ( cont’) and walk it over.

Catherine Darby: a-ha, that is what I do. It’s a lot, but if you want to wash up, you don’t want to be smelling. You got to wash.

Ilya Marritz: So, why do residents have to heat their own water?. A lot of people think it has something to do with this: a rented mobile boiler setup outside the boiler room that flooded in the storm.

Unknown voice: Basically what I am looking at is a big temporary flywood house, and right next to that is a truck that says home and boiler works.

Ilya Marritz: The truck has Texas plates, steam bellows out of the bowls from the underbelly, and the ground is wet from dripping water; it looks temporary, but also kind of permanent.

Unknown voice: There's already grass going up under the wheels of the truck, that shows that it’s been here like a whole season.

Ilya Marritz: This worries Carmen Munoz.

Carmen Munoz: When the winter coming, I don’t like that. I want a hot water in my house, and heat!

Ilya Marritz: Across the public housing system, not one of the twenty three mobile boilers installed after Sandy, has had a permanent replacement.

Lucy Newman: I think that the city dropped the ball on this one.

Ilya Marritz: Lucy Newman is a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society.

Lucy Newman: Twelve months after the storm, it appears that in the buildings that really were hit badly, that nothing it’s been done.

Ilya Marritz: Newman and I went through the list of buildings with temporarily boilers and tallied the residents.

Lucy Newman: So red fern has a thousand , six hundred and forty one.

Ilya Marritz: ok

Lucy Newman: And south side has..

Ilya Marritz: It comes out to over ten thousand people, in Rockaway, Coney Island , Red hook and the Lower East Side. Months after many private homeowners installed permanent boilers, people in public housing must rely on a stop gap. Cecil House is general manager of the New York City housing Authority, he says: -“ is not fair to compare public housing with private, family homes take mass produced boilers, big housing projects need to have them custom built.

Cecil House: It’s a much more complicated engineering effort to design that boiler, have it actually fabricated, and most of them are fabricated on site, and calibrated, test it, hook it up to the system and have it actually take over and carry the load.

Ilya Marritz: And there's work to do even before that, the authority doesn’t want to lose any new boilers in the next big storm, so a solution has to be device for each individual boiler room, and that hasn’t been done yet.

Cecil House: The boiler room in Hammel is below ground, and it flooded. So our effort would be one of two solutions: one is to either water proof that room, or to build a separate boiler room for that location.

Ilya Marritz: At a higher elevation, where flood waters won’t reach it, either way the fix will take time.

Cecil House: I will not expect that the solution to be in place for this heating season, and it may not be in place for the next heating season, but it will clearly be in place after that.

Ilya Marritz: So, hammel houses , may not have a permanent boiler until late 2015, meanwhile House says, the temporary boilers are actually performing very well, better in some cases than the old boilers. Is asking anyone who loses heat or hot water to call in their complaint right away. He says the Agency will make them a priority. For WNYC I'm Ilya Merritz.