Audit by city comptroller reveals backlog of 50,000 repairs in NYCHA

Cyril Josh Barker | 7/23/2015, 10:24 a.m.
An audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed a backlog of 50,000 repairs in the New York City Housing Authority ...
NYCHA - Baruch House

An audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed a backlog of 50,000 repairs in the New York City Housing Authority and that it takes an average of a year to fix safety violations.

The audit also revealed that NYCHA drastically under-reported data on its maintenance backlog, failed to properly train staff to get rid of mold, mildew and excessive moisture conditions in tenants’ apartments and fell dramatically short when it came to meeting its own deadlines for repairs.

Stringer, presenting the findings at a press conference Monday at Grant Houses in Harlem, said NYCHA residents wait for weeks, months and sometimes even years before having serious problems fixed, including asbestos, missing carbon monoxide detectors, broken elevators, leaky ceilings and faulty stoves, due to poor management and oversight.

“During our audit, we learned of one tenant who had a leaky ceiling that was so bad that she had to cancel Christmas, and another who had to deal with a leak for more than a decade,” Stringer said. “We also heard from a NYCHA tenant who was forced to live with mold for 11 years. This track record is shameful, and while there is no question that we have to fix these apartments quickly, it is equally clear that we must also fix NYCHA itself.”

Stringer’s four-part agenda includes establishing NYCHAStat, a fully transparent management tool based on the NYPD’s CompStat to track open work orders by development.

The comptroller is calling for budget reforms designed to bring NYCHA in line with other city agencies and wants NYCHA’s Physical Needs Assessment, a comprehensive review of NYCHA infrastructure needs in all five boroughs. Stringer also called for using surplus funds from the Battery Park City Authority to support capital improvements at NYCHA, including technology and infrastructure upgrades.

In February 2013, NYCHA established a new policy of closing “non-emergency” work orders if residents are not home when NYCHA attempts to make repairs one time. The policy for emergency repairs is to visit twice before closing the work order. The policy reduced the backlog of repairs on paper without fixing a single problem for those residents who were at work or otherwise not available when NYCHA finally appeared to make repairs.

Among the repairs most needed were gas leaks, heating outages and major flooding. More than 80 percent went unaddressed for more than 24 hours. Nearly 75 percent of mold repairs were completed by staff members that NYCHA failed to properly train.

“I know that NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye is committed to turning the Authority around, and that’s why I am proposing a four-part reform agenda that will give us the tools to fix residents’ apartments and NYCHA itself,” Stringer said. “Making problems disappear on paper while leaving residents to deal with leaky plumbing, faulty wiring and falling plaster is the worst kind of magic trick.”

NYCHA Chief Communications Officer Jean Weinberg said in a statement that Stringer's audit is not a new problem and that the agency is open to suggestions on making things better for tenants.

“The Comptroller is recycling old news on NYCHA’s maintenance and repairs," Weinberg said. "Rather than reviewing outdated data, we welcome common-sense solutions and ideas that will improve the quality of life for our residents.”