It's been a rough winter for many of the 400,000 residents of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complexes.
"It was really terrible," resident Ida Singleton said. "We didn't have heat. I mean, everybody in my apartment, plus the kids, was underneath blankets, and coats, and gloves."
Roughly 80 percent of the buildings experienced heat failures because of aging equipment and faulty boilers.
In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $200 million plan to improve the heating systems in 20 NYCHA developments, but critics complained that some of the upgrades would not be completed for years.
So on Thursday, NYCHA officials gathered at Fiorentino Plaza, where there have been 11 heat outages this winter, to announce that the work would be expedited — completed in less than two years, instead of up to five.
"There is a real strong and firm commitment to improve the living conditions of the residents in the housing authority," NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo said at the press conference.
NYCHA officials said designers started work Thursday to replace those systems. They also are huddling with other city agencies to simplify the approval and contracting processes to complete projects more quickly.
"It's these little things that are going to add up," said Deborah Goddard, the executive vice president of NYCHA's Capital Projects Team. "They have one process that generally takes four weeks; they've cut it down to a week for us. 75 percent, you know, expediting. We really, really appreciate that."
NYCHA made the announcement as the mayor's political rival, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, threatens to declare a state of emergency in NYCHA housing, which would be politically embarrassing to City Hall.
Some residents NY1 spoke to Thursday said they were skeptical that the beleaguered housing authority will make good on its latest promises.
"Actions speak louder than words," Singleton said. "I mean, come on, why do we have to live here like this? I pay rent."
Others are more hopeful. "I think they'll make it happen," NYCHA resident Tina Bradway said. "Because they have so many complaints, so I know they can't do nothing but make it happen, because it's been hectic."
NYCHA officials said the agency will continue to rely on temporary mobile boilers and emergency repairs to keep buildings warm until the long-term upgrades are complete.