By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Winter Storm Hercules, meet Superstorm Sandy.
The snowstorm that hit New York City last week exposed a lingering problem that was caused by Superstorm Sandy and has never been properly addressed, according to Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst), who said he is pushing for a solution.
A temporary boiler installed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) at the O’Dwyer Houses in Coney Island in the wake of Sandy in 2012 broke down during Hercules, leaving 600 families with no heat or hot water, Treyger said.
Two of the housing project’s six buildings did not have heat or hot water for two days, the councilman said.
“That is unacceptable,” Treyger told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in a phone interview on Monday.
He traced the boiler problem directly back to Sandy.
“NYCHA installed a temporary boiler at the O’Dwyer Houses after the boiler was destroyed by Sandy. The boiler had been in the basement and the basement was flooded,” Treyger said. “Because there was a concern that the basement would become flooded again if another storm hit, the temporary boiler was installed outside of the building. It’s protected from the elements by a makeshift box. But the boxes are not designed to withstand such cold weather.”
NYCHA did repair the temporary boiler, and the tenants once again had heat and hot water, but Treyger expressed concern that residents of the O’Dwyer Houses could face the same situation all over again should another winter storm hit the city. “The temporary boiler is still there,” he said.
And the O’Dwyer Houses is not the only NYCHA housing project with this potential problem, Treyger said.
“There are a lot of NYCHA buildings that were impacted by Sandy,” Treyger said. Treyger said he has discussed the matter with colleagues like Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook-Sunset Park) and council members from Queens whose constituents have been similarly impacted. “My frustration is this: we are more than a year past Sandy, yet many of these buildings still have temporary boilers,” he said.
Sandy, which struck on Oct. 29, 2012, impacted 422 NYCHA buildings, according to cmtysolutions.org, which also reported that 80,000 tenants were displaced from their homes by the hurricane.
Treyger said he has requested a meeting with NYCHA and with officials from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office to try to come to a permanent resolution. “We can’t be going through this all the time,” he said, referring to boiler breakdowns. “If you can’t put a boiler in the basement because of the possibility of flooding, then you have to figure something else out.”
Treyger said he believes there would be funding available to install permanent boilers. “There is so much Sandy money that still hasn’t been used,” he said.
Last month, Treyger and Menchaca called for the City Council to establish a committee to oversee Sandy recovery efforts in the city.
As the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, the two council members expressed concern over the slow pace of Sandy recover efforts.
Both men hail from parts of Brooklyn that sustained devastating damage from Sandy. Menchaca spent months leading volunteer efforts in storm-ravaged Red Hook following the hurricane. The Coney Island portion of Treyger’s district saw a great deal of flooding and shore erosion.
“Small businesses, public housing residents, home owners and apartment renters continue to feel the impacts of Superstorm Sandy today, more than a year later. A City Council committee will provide the necessary oversight over our city agencies and ensure federal aid reach the hands of our impacted residents who deserve a just, equitable and sustainable recovery,” Menchaca said.
On Monday, Treyger told the Eagle that he will continue to stress the need for a Sandy recover committee when the council begins its new session on Jan. 8.
In a statement emailed to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Jan. 9, NYCHA officials said there currently isn’t enough funding to install permanent boilers at Sandy-damaged buildings.
“The New York City Housing Authority’s goal is to install permanent boilers at each location impacted by Sandy where there are now temporary boilers. However, our task also is to rebuild infrastructure smarter and better to ensure that our buildings in the impacted areas can withstand any future disasters or extreme weather events. Until NYCHA has received the funding necessary to build new and resilient boiler systems, we anticipate having temporary boilers in place throughout 2014,” the statement read.
Article was updated to include statement from NYCHA.