NEW YORK—The largest and oldest public housing network in the country also has a massive backlog of repair work orders. The New York Public Housing Authority (NYCHA) announced on July 1 that it has reduced the number of open work orders at its properties to under 220,000. The figure is down from a high of 423,000 open work orders.
Some of the issues that are being addressed include mildew, and repairs of intercoms, trash compactors, roof fans, and doors. The Housing Authority said in a press release that it plans to fulfill all current open work orders by the end of 2013. According to NYCHA, it currently takes about a week to respond to a maintenance request, and about two weeks to respond to more complex requests.
People who are close to the situation tell a different story about wait times, though.
“The wait times for repairs are really, really long,” said a NYCHA employee during a July 2 rally of public housing workers. The woman did not want to be identified because of her position with the Housing Authority. She described a long process of requesting repairs, with multiple steps for the tenant to follow, which can be further delayed by a technicality.
“If you have a request in for repairs and they show up to fix it and you’re not home, then you go to the back of the line,” she said. “It takes a really long time to get anything fixed.”
NYCHA insists that it is moving as fast as possible with the resources it has. It says that 565 new employees have been added to support a “work order reduction plan.” New maintenance and skilled trade workers make up the majority of the new workers, numbering 389.
Candidates running for mayor haven’t missed the chance to level claims squarely against NYCHA and the Housing Preservation Department (HPD) that the agencies are not doing enough to keep public housing in good working order.
At a June 25 rally with dozens of housing advocate groups in Gramercy, Bill De Blasio, candidate for New York City mayor, called for the resignation of NYCHA Chairman John Rhea.
“How do you fix the Housing Authority?” De Blasio asked the crowd. “Get rid of John Rhea!”
From 2001 through 2013, federal funds to NYCHA plummeted by over $2 billion. Before this year’s $205 million federal cuts, they already had a structural annual operating deficit of $60 million, as well as a whopping $14 billion dollars in unfunded capital improvements. That includes projects for new roofs, brickwork, heating and plumbing systems, and elevators, according to the Housing Authority.
Adolfo Carrion, who is also running for mayor, noted that NYCHA’s loss of federal money tells the most important part of the story.
“Anybody that tells you that we have the money to fix the housing authority is not telling you the truth,” stated Carrion emphatically.