The New York City Housing Authority announced this week that they’ve made tremendous strides in slashing the number of backlogged maintenance complaints in city-owned housing complexes, following a scathing “Hall of Shame”-style watchlist released by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio that named three Southern Brooklyn housing projects as among the worst in the city.
According to the agency, they have reduced the number of outstanding complaints by more than half since an initiative kicked off in January, and reduced the average wait time by nearly one month.
“As a result of NYCHA’s Action Plan to improve its accountability and efficiency in responding to maintenance and repair work orders, we are pleased to report that the number of open maintenance and repair work orders has been reduced from 422,639 on January 1, 2013, to 197,134 as of August 1, 2013,” NYCHA announced in a release issued this week. “This reduction of 225,505 work orders positions NYCHA to achieve its goal of eliminating the backlog by the end of 2013 and have only 90,000 open work orders at the end of the year.”
According to the agency, 90,000 work orders represents the number of work orders it would have if it handled maintenance requests in an average of seven days and more complex requests in an average of 15 days. According to de Blasio’s list, NYCHAwatchlist.com, the average work order request sits for 282 days without action, or more than nine months.
In the release, NYCHA pinned the blame for delayed repair requests on budget shortfalls and resource restraints, which, after coming under fire late last year, they’ve been working to address.
“Focusing on the work order backlog, and dedicating resources even during this tough economic period, has allowed NYCHA to address deficiencies that resulted from years of significant and sustained budget shortfalls,” the agency said, noting that the financial situation may worsen due to sequestration.
At the time of de Blasio’s report, which was based on data from February 15, just weeks after the NYCHA initiative was launched, the agency claimed to have slashed as many as 200,000 outstanding requests. But the public advocate had his doubts about whether or not the agency was truly making all the repairs, or simply canceling out old requests. The watchlist’s about page notes:
According to the data, more than 50,000 repairs were made in just the first two weeks of February 2013—the equivalent of 3,394 repairs per day. De Blasio warned those numbers suggested the agency was canceling old repair tickets and making quick fixes for the purposes of touting big reductions in its backlog, and urged the agency to prioritize the most critical repairs instead.
According to the agency, they’re doing exactly that kind of prioritization, putting aside aesthetic requests such as those for paint jobs.
“Recognizing that there are limited resources, work that is primarily to improve the appearance of apartments will not be able to be addressed by staff unless the fiscal situation improves. Painting is an example of this new prioritization,” the release notes.
De Blasio’s watchlist placed the Sheepshead Bay Houses, the Nostrand Houses, and the Marlboro Houses near the top of the list, at numbers 19, 22 and 41 respectively. They’re also pinned as the worst of 13 NYCHA complexes in Southern Brooklyn, with thousands of outstanding complaints among them, and an average of 240 to 349 days of inaction.
The chart at the top of this article, provided by NYCHA, shows that maintenance crews, contractors and specialists have been able to tackle anywhere between 450 jobs to 2,013 jobs a day.
At the Sheepshead Bay Houses, one resident has taken notice of the work, sending us photos of asbestos abatement signs and construction work permits. However, as we previously reported, she was unsettled at the lack of communication between the agency and residents, citing their inability to answer basic questions about the work. She also sent in this photo, noting that the complex was surrounded in unsightly fencing.
“[It's] like we’re being trapped in,” she wrote.
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