NEW YORK – Greek-American Queens Housing Court Judge Kimon Thermos was “outraged” by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) “failure to provide hot water to as many as 300 tenants in a Rockaway apartment building since November” of 2021, the Daily News reported on February 5.
“If this was a private small landlord he [the landlord] would be in jail by now,” Judge Thermos said in the Jan. 20 hearing, the Daily News reported. “He would have been in jail by now and the fines would have been $500 per day, per apartment. So he would have been in jail and he would have been losing his building too.”
“As a city-run agency, NYCHA is not eligible for the same penalties as a private landlord who neglects its properties and tenants,” the Daily News noted.
“Why is your crime shielded this way?” Thermos asked a NYCHA lawyer, the Daily News reported. “NYCHA is dropping the ball big time here.”
“Tenants in Carleton Manor say NYCHA did little for months to fix the water problem that makes taking a shower a major undertaking,” the Daily News reported, adding that “dozens of tenants have filed a petition in Housing Court seeking to force NYCHA to make repairs at the 174-unit building on Beach Channel Dr. and Beach 74th St. in Arverne.”
“This is the dead of winter,” Alisha Robinson, 42, told the Daily News. “We need this corrected. We need some attention on fixing this… It doesn’t make any sense to me, I have to go to a hotel to take a decent shower.”
“But some tenants can’t afford a hotel room, don’t have other homes to visit for a warm shower or are disabled, said LaWanda Johnson-Gainey, 62, the president of the resident council,” the Daily News reported, adding that “they heat water on a stove, carry it to the tub and use it to bathe.”
“Vernell Robinson, a 30-year resident of the building who is disabled, said she relies on others to bring her pots of hot water to the bathroom from the kitchen,” The Daily News reported.
“I have to do that five times to wash my legs. It’s disgusting. It’s degrading. I don’t have any place to go,” she told the Daily News, noting that “hot water issues at the building have persisted since at least 2005, but have been particularly pronounced this winter.” “Cold water comes out of many of the faucets without pressure and has a red tinge due to rusted pipes,” the Daily News reported, adding that “tenants must run the water for minutes at a time before it is clear, they say.”
“The legal fight began Nov. 29, when one tenant, Shaniya Callender, filed a petition to get the water problem fixed,” the Daily News reported, but “that yielded no progress, so on Dec. 28, 45 tenants signed a petition threatening housing court action if no repairs were made by Jan. 10.”
“That deadline came and went, so the tenants took NYCHA to court,” the Daily News reported, adding that “at the Jan. 20 hearing, Judge Thermos was outraged that NYCHA’s work on the building was being overseen by an unlicensed plumber.”
“The judge said he was considering issuing a subpoena demanding NYCHA Chairman Gregory Russ appear in court, but before he could, Thermos was replaced on the case by a different judge, for unclear reasons,” the Daily News reported.
“NYCHA needs to stop stalling and get these tenants and their families the justice they deserve,” Robert Sanderman, an attorney at Legal Services NYC, told the Daily News. “These tenants, who pay rent just like everyone else, have suffered for too long and are tired of waiting on NYCHA to do the right thing.”
“A NYCHA spokesman says the agency is working to restore hot water,” the Daily News reported.
“Plumbing teams have been working over the past month to ensure consistent hot water service for residents of this development and are still determining the root cause,” Nekoro Gomes, a spokesman for the authority, told the Daily News on Jan. 28, adding that “replacing the shower valves in resident bathrooms has helped alleviate the issue,” and “we expect to complete these repairs for all units by the end of next week.”
A Legal Services spokesman told the Daily News “that while nearly all units were without hot water at the Jan. 20 hearing, NYCHA has since fixed the issue in about 110 units.”
“But as of Friday, the struggle continued,” the Daily News reported, noting that “at least 60 units still didn’t have hot water and it was not clear when the service would be restored, the spokesman said.”
“They always have excuses,” tenant Alisha Robinson told the Daily News.