NYCHA has only managed to replace two elevators across its network of public housing projects in the past four years, falling far short of repair benchmarks spelled out by the agency’s federal monitor.
The elevator finding is contained in a report released Tuesday by Bart Schwartz, who has served as the New York City Housing Authority’s court-appointed federal monitor since 2019.
The monitor agreement, which NYCHA entered following years of complaints about poor management and deplorable housing conditions, stipulated that the authority replace at least 108 of its more than 3,000 elevators by the end of 2022.
But Schwartz’s report stated that NYCHA has only replaced two elevators since 2018, both of them at developments in the Bronx. The authority only anticipates it will swap another six elevators by the start of 2023, meaning it is behind schedule by 100 replacements, according to Schwartz’s team.
“NYCHA’s progress in the delivery of new elevators is dire,” Schwartz wrote in his 59-page report.
At the same time, Schwartz found that elevator performance in NYCHA projects has improved, with the agency logging fewer outages annually this year as compared to 2019.
Schwartz also offered praise for NYCHA’s cooperation in developing a new data system for tracking issues related to heating systems, abatement of lead-based paint, mold and leaks, waste management and pest control.
The new tracking system has allowed the authority to keep better tabs on such issues as they arise at its 335 housing developments across the city, Schwartz said. For instance, NYCHA has made “significant progress” in fulfilling its response time obligations to vermin complaints, according to the monitor report.
“Although this report is a testament to NYCHA’s ongoing progress, the agency still has a long way to go,” Schwartz said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for NYCHA did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.
Robert Valdes, a 69-year-old retiree who has lived in NYCHA’s Riis Houses in Manhattan since he was 8, said the elevator in his building is mysteriously always sent up to the fifth floor without anyone calling it. He was flabbergasted to learn the authority is so far behind on replacing elevators across the public housing system.
“That’s just ridiculous,” Valdes told the Daily News.
Valdes, whose housing complex was the site of an arsenic scare this summer, also said his building hasn’t had gas for nearly six months due to repair work and that he’s had to rely on a portable stove to cook.
“There’s a lot of things going on wrong with NYCHA,” he said.
Despite the monitor report’s positive tone on some fronts, Schwartz found problems when it comes to heating and pest control.
According to data culled from last winter, NYCHA buildings experienced a significant uptick in heating outages compared to the prior two heating seasons. Heating outages occurred in more developments as well, the data shows.
Much of this stemmed from mechanical issues in buildings’ boiler systems. Compared to the 2019-2020 winter, the winter of 2021 and 2022 ended with a 130% uptick in mechanical breakdowns in NYCHA boilers.
To better address this, the monitor recommends in his report that NYCHA’s heating team improve training and management of staff “so that work orders provide accurate descriptions of the condition of the equipment.”
When it comes to rats, the monitor found that NYCHA is falling short of the goals set out for it in its agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to the agreement, the Housing Authority was required by 2021 to respond to 75% of all rat complaints within two business days and all rat complaints within five days.
But the data gathered by the monitor shows NYCHA is falling short of that. Last month, NYCHA responded to 42% of all rat complaints within two days and 54% of complaints within five days.
The monitor also disputed NYCHA’s claim that pest infestations are declining. While new pest reports have gone down in recent months, the monitor contends that overall infestations are increasing because a backlog of unresolved complaints continues to go up.
“Providing decent, safe and sanitary conditions for all residents and complying with the HUD Agreement under a timeline remains a big challenge for NYCHA,” the monitor said.