They are the “worst roofs” in public housing — 123 leaking, decrepit sieves at 18 developments so bad that NYCHA has deemed them “at or past useful life.”
NYCHA planned to repair the soggy problem by using $100 million from the state, but then Gov. Cuomo pulled the rug out from under those plans and redirected the money, leaving thousands of residents suffering until the Housing Authority finds another way to get the job done.
City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) accused Cuomo on Wednesday of “playing politics” with the New York City Housing Authority, stating, “The governor has politicized the use of the $100 million and does nothing to address the needs of tenants.”
Torres will hold a hearing Thursday on the roof debacle as head of the Council’s Public Housing Committee.
An internal list of the 18 targeted developments shows NYCHA singled out buildings where roof leaks have worsened its premier problem — creeping toxic mold.
“The most chronic problems that public housing tenants face are mold growth and leakage, a constant cycle,” Torres said. “So if you replace these roofs, you’re addressing the root cause of mold growth and leakage. That’s the best capital investment that you can make in these buildings.”
The debt-ridden Housing Authority is now struggling to clear mold in hundreds of apartments as part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit. Tenants recently asked a judge to intervene after NYCHA fell behind.
A detailed 27-page repair plan with charts and time lines that NYCHA submitted last month to the state lists the 18 developments and promises to finish nearly all repairs by the end of 2016.
Tenants at the Sedgwick Houses in Morris Heights, the Bronx, find themselves at the top of the list with the worst roofs among NYCHA developments.
Built in 1951, Sedgwick’s seven roofs are now rated 4.68 on a scale of one for good to five for “beyond useful life.” If Cuomo had granted the money for roof repair as NYCHA wanted, the authority said it would have spent $7.5 million and finished the job at Sedgwick by September 2016.
Blanca Rivia, 68, has lived in her 14th-floor Sedgwick Houses apartment for 38 years. She is on the top floor and is the most susceptible to leaking from the roof.
“They have to fix it. When the water comes in it comes through the wall and fills up the floor,” she said.
“Once I had a big flood in the house and the tiles came out,” she said, adding that she has logged hundreds of complaints.
Rivia was stunned to learn the money for roof repairs was not coming. “They have to! All these buildings are broken! They have to finish!” she pleaded.
Lincoln Houses in East Harlem — where then-mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio stayed overnight in 2013 — comes in a close second with a 4.6 rating. NYCHA planned to spend $15.8 million on 14 buildings there and finish by September 2017.
“Since I’ve been here the past 15 years, people who live on the top floors suffer the most because the (roofs) constantly leak,” Lincoln Houses tenants association President Patricia Herman said Wednesday.
She recalled one tenant was scared to touch a light switch because so much water was leaking. Herman made clear the complex could surely have used the state money to fix the problem now rather than later.
“I agree with that 100%. We need to get the problems from where they start at so they don’t keep coming back,” she said.
NYCHA got its hopes up April 1 when Cuomo announced the state would set aside the $100 million for NYCHA as part of the 2016 budget. The state had stopped funding NYCHA in 1998.
Cuomo did not spell out specifics, but NYCHA quickly decided roof repair was the best way to use the funds. The agency performed physical inspections and tallied mold-abatement and water-leak repair requests to create a “worst roofs” list.
NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye sent the list to the state April 10, promising to match the funding for roof repairs at an additional 66 buildings.
“We selected roof replacement for this program because it delivers multiple benefits at once: improves safety, prevents leaks, mold and asbestos (problems) and significantly decreases maintenance tickets,” Olatoye wrote.
On May 6, it became clear Cuomo had other plans.
He met with Assembly Democrats from the city that day and directed them to submit proposals for small-scale projects of less than $2 million each.
In a memo to the Assembly members, state agencies said the funds “are not intended to supplant NYCHA funding for routine capital program activities” — including roof repair.
The memo suggested, instead, that the money could pay for lighting improvements, landscaping, playground equipment, security cameras or stoves and refrigerators.
Torres called these “feel-good projects,” which he lambasted as taking “a higher precedent over critical needs.”
The governor gave the members until May 20 to send in plans, but as of Wednesday, no details had emerged.
Cuomo spokesman Frank Sobrino said, “The funding is intended to address long-neglected needs brought to our attention by stakeholders. We will select the most viable projects. Making these overdue quality-of-life improvements will free up resources for NYCHA to invest in its capital program.”
State Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), who pushed hard to get the state funds for NYCHA in the first place, said he was surprised by Cuomo’s rejection of NYCHA’s roof plan.
“To spend this money any other way is shameful and once again neglects the over 400,000 tenants who live in NYCHA,” Klein said. “You weren’t supposed to put in a new playground when you could pay $7 million on a new roof at Throggs Neck.”With Laura Bult