Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes and Council Member Antonio Reynoso joined local residents outside NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses on Thursday afternoon to draw attention to ongoing cooking gas outages at the complex, and to push for state legislation that would reduce rents for public housing residents experiencing utility outages.
97 apartments across two buildings have been without gas since May 1 due to broken equipment, according to NYCHA.
Inconsistent gas service has been a major issue at the 32-building complex, with several months-long disruptions in recent years. In March, over 40 residents filed a civil lawsuit against NYCHA, demanding the authority address service issues, provide rent reductions and reimburse tenants’ legal fees.
“Over the years we’ve seen our government disinvest in our most needy people, our working class,” Mitaynes said at the event. “And during a time of a pandemic, when we need our government to step in. There is no accountability and there’s very little responsiveness.”
The most recent outages were initiated after staff replacing a stove in an apartment in the eastern portion of the complex found a broken gas appliance valve, the Authority told Bklyner. They then discovered a gas riser valve in a building basement was corroded and leaking. Staff determined they could not isolate the leak to make repairs and asked National Grid to turn off the gas service.
NYCHA said it was working to restore gas service, but did not provide an estimated date for when that would happen, and the outage does not currently appear on the agency’s online portal. NYCHA provides hot plates to tenants without cooking gas, but residents say it’s nearly impossible to cook for a family with the single-burner device.
“People are sick and tired of living like slum tenants,” said resident Ruben Morales, who also complained about water damage, exposed wiring and long-outstanding repairs at the complex. “We pay our rent, why not get it fixed?”
Attendees called on the state to pass the NYCHA Utility Accountability Act, which would require NYCHA to provide a rent reduction to tenants who experience a disruption in utility service.
The Assembly version of the bill has 20 sponsors, including Mitaynes, and is currently sitting in committee. But the Authority itself opposes the proposal.
“Gas outages are a symptom of decades of disinvestment in NYCHA’s aging infrastructure,” NYCHA spokesperson Rochel Leah Goldblatt told Bklyner. “While we understand the aim of the bill’s sponsors, it would be better to support the Blueprint for Change, which will bring meaningful investment into NYCHA, rather than taking a punitive approach.”
NYCHA declined to comment on the civil suit, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.
Meanwhile, a $550 million redevelopment project to repair damage to the Red Hook Houses caused by Superstorm Sandy damage likely won’t be completed until 2023.
Reynoso, who does not represent the area but who has been touring the borough as part of his run for Brooklyn Borough President, also criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for providing what he called insufficient support for NYCHA in his most recent executive budget proposal.
“At some point we have to say stop with the nonsense and do your job as the landlord of NYCHA,” Reynoso said.