City Council members were frustrated Tuesday to the point of anger at NYCHA leaders.
“You have the money! The supply has not been delivered!” Rafael Salamanca said, demanding to know what happened to council funding for security measures.
“What you have, you have to maximize on that because our people are hurting! You try being in a cold house!” Charles Barron said.
Ari Kagan denounced the lack of working elevators and the presence of mice and roaches, stressing that tenants were living without “cooking gas for seven months. People are suffering, but nobody cares, nobody.”
At council budget hearing chaired by Alexa Aviles, the status of much-needed maintenance and repairs elicited the most emotion.
NYCHA chair and CEO Greg Russ and his deputies acknowledged the exasperation, gave some explanations and promised transparency and expediency on repairs.
“All funds considered, we’re spending $60 to $70 million a month currently,” he said. “What I would say is that the dissatisfaction with the council funding is real and we hear it and we are going to fix this.”
Brian Honan, vice president of the office of intergovernmental relations at NYCHA said, “Oftentimes, we get complaints about no heat and we find that the boilers are working OK, but the heat is literally going out the window. It’s just part of a larger infrastructure story.”
He also noted, “For the first five months of 2021, non-emergency work orders were suspended due to COVID, so we weren’t going into people’s apartments.”
Russ said that in time NYCHA representatives will be easier to reach on specific projects and a work order tracker will be in place.
He opened the hearing by saying that NYCHA, across the portfolio, needs $40 billion in urgent capital repairs and that the rent revenue, which is one-third of the agency’s budget, is down by 30% as tenants fall behind due to the pandemic.
“The current rent shortfall has climbed to about $311 million,” he said. “That’s a significant sum that we could use today if we had it to repair the buildings that we have.”