Northeast US: Tens of Thousands Left to Freeze in Public Housing

As winter approaches, city housing authorities scramble to fix damaged or faulty infrastructure.

This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

Between Hurricane Sandy and the below-freezing temperatures, tens of thousands of public housing residents across the northeast have been left to freeze, as state housing authorities scramble to repair damaged or faulty infrastructure. 

In New York City, more than 20,000 residents across 114 buildings are still living without electricity, heat and, in some cases, even running water since last week’s Hurricane Sandy devastated coastal areas of New York and New Jersey.
“The level of dysfunction and apathy from NYCHA to the tenants of NYCHA is shocking,” Brooklyn City Councilman Stephen Levin told The New York Daily News. “I can’t get an answer for the last three and a half hours. I get responses like, ‘We’re trying.’”
In the massive public housing complexes Red Hook, Brooklyn, seniors are trapped in high-rise apartment buildings without working elevators, reliant on neighbors or relief volunteer workers to bring them food and water. Teams of medical professionals have been dispatched by volunteer networks to give check ups and write new prescriptions, but many residents report that no one from the city agency has come to check on them.
In the Rockaways, Queens, many living above the sixth floor are without working plumbing, and they are forced to trudge up a dozen flights of stairs carrying gallons of drinking water. In the housing projects in the Lower East Side and Chinatown in Manhattan, many reported that the smell of excrement and urine was overwhelming in the housing developments last week, before the water and power was restored late last Friday.
Meanwhile, the Boston Housing Authority is also under public scrutinyfor allowing its residents to freeze last night, although the problems were not storm related. Elderly residents of BHA’s Heritage complex in East Boston were left without adequate heat yesterday evening as a result of what appears to be a botched $15 million energy project.
The housing authority has converted a handful of its buildings to a more energy-efficient heating system, but residents inside Heritage told The Boston Herald that the new system isn’t working, leaving seniors shivering in their apartments. 

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and the author of "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," forthcoming from Zuccotti Park Press.