Residents await repairs promised by NYCHA


The New York City Housing Authority started the year with an ambitious resolution:  complete the 420,000 pending repair requests on record for the Marble Hill Houses and 333 other developments by next year, and begin making fixes more quickly, including getting emergency repairs out of the way within 24 hours.

At the Marble Hill Houses, tenants say they’ve become accustomed to waiting at least a year for repairs. They also said they were particularly anxious for NYCHA to complete re-pointing, or waterproofing, the exterior bricks of all 11 Marble Hill buildings, since consistent water damage complaints have contributed to the repair backlog. 

NYCHA would not provide The Riverdale Press with the number of outstanding work order requests for the Marble Hill Houses. Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez’s office requested the figure two weeks ago and is still awaiting an answer, according to Mr. Rodriguez’s media and communications director Russell Murphy.

Despite NYCHA’s goals, many residents of the Marble Hill Houses, including Martiza Sota, said past experiences made them wary of putting faith in NYCHA’s plan.  

This fall, Ms. Sota said her washing machine and dryer overburdened the circuit breaker and she lost power. She said NYCHA left her in the dark for two weeks before electricians repaired the wiring in her apartment at 2861 Exterior St. 

“Emergency repairs like that are supposed to be 24 hours,” she said. “I don’t wait; I do everything I can myself.”

Last week, Aleida Aquino said Department of Health and Mental Hygiene officials pointed out safety violations caused by consistent water damage in the Little Angels daycare she runs out of her 2861 Exterior St. apartment. Ms. Aquino said she tried to prevent the violations by filling in cracks and holes in the living room walls with plaster, but that the rain continues to drip in. 

During storms, she said, she shepherds the toddlers out of the living room, where the walls show splotches of exposed plaster and the yellow paint puckers off the wall beside an alphabet banner and a Dora the Explorer poster. 

The daycare moves into her son’s room, where the pale blue walls are marbled with fresh white plaster. He said he’s been waiting for NYCHA to fix a large hole in his ceiling since this summer. The bright white of the floor above him peeks out of the split in the ceiling.

“Three, four years ago, I paid a guy $800 to paint my house and do the floors. It was beautiful for three months. Then the water came,” Ms. Aquino said. “I guess I’ll do it again.”

In March 2010, NYCHA announced a provision of the federal stimulus package allowed the bankrupted agency to place the Marble Hill Houses and 20 other city- and state-run developments on a list of federally sponsored housing complexes. For decades, NYCHA diverted about $1 billion from federally backed complexes to the 21 projects, contributing to the agency’s $150 million deficit and leaving Marble Hill and other communities in disrepair.

Federalization provided NYCHA with the money to sign a $15.4 million contract in spring 2010 to have the mortar replaced between the exterior bricks of Marble Hill buildings and to have the developments’ roofs repaired.  

But the New Marble Hill Tenants’ Association President Paulette Shomo said at least 50 families in the 1,682-unit complex reported that nobody waterproofed the bricks outside their homes. 

NYCHA has agreed to complete the exterior brickwork using a second contract, but Ms. Shomo said the agency has given no timeline for the second round. 

NYCHA declined to comment on the matter.

Throughout NYCHA buildings, 400,000 residents currently face waits for repairs as long as two years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a Jan. 31 press conference. He blamed delays on Congress’ refusal to fully fund NYCHA. 

Since 2001, the mayor said legislators have failed to approve $750 million for NYCHA’s operating budget, which has left the city struggling to repair aging buildings. 

NYCHA Chairman John Rhea said the agency has come up with $40 million by consolidating administrative costs and $10 million in City Council funding. The money, he said, would allow NYCHA to hire new staff and to ensure that the agency has sufficient materials. 

NYCHA classifies gas leaks, broken elevators, floods, power failures, sewer stoppages, broken apartment locks and heat and hot water complaints as emergency repairs, which it aims to correct within 24 hours. The agency also intends to limit the average wait time to one week for minor corrective repairs, such as clogged sinks and bathtubs, broken refrigerators and problems with toilet tanks; and to two weeks for requests that require carpenters, electricians, plasterers and other skilled trade workers.

Carrie Coney and other residents said there’s nothing to do but wait.

Outside of Carrie Coney’s apartment at 2861 Exterior St., the green and white paint has bubbled up in patches. Cracked paint chips have peeled off the ceiling, just above a crack that spans about a yard. Inside, Ms. Coney said consistent leaks have left stains. 

“It’s been so long, I can’t say how long I’ve been waiting,” she said.