Features, Finance, Health and Safety, Law and Politics, Municipal Government, New York

NYCHA Wasted Millions Putting Residents’ Health at Risk

July 30, 2019

By Neal Tepel

NEW YORK, NY — The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) wasted millions on roof repairs and failed to perform basic oversight and preventive maintenance of roofs, putting the health and safety of thousands of NYCHA residents at risk.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s auditors inspected 35 roofs—all replaced since Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 and thus under a 20-year warranty—in 13 different NYCHA developments throughout the five boroughs.  The audit found deficient conditions including roof sag, pooling water, open seams, and damaged masonry on 88 percent of those roofs, while NYCHA’s own inspections—if done at all—largely failed to note any problems at all in part because NYCHA still operates on obsolete, decades’ old rules. Faulty and damaged roofs can put residents in harm’s way and breed conditions ripe for mold and mildew contamination, exacerbating the public health challenges for NYCHA residents.

This review follows a 2017 audit from Comptroller Stringer’s office in which auditors observed conditions of ponding and standing water, and poor drainage on several newly installed roofs that could jeopardize the integrity of roof systems.

“What a mess. For decades, NYCHA residents have endured leaky ceilings, mold and mildew, and our new audit sheds light on how NYCHA is failing to prevent it. We uncovered that NYCHA’s systemic failure to keep its house in order starts at the top – the roofs that should be keeping residents dry are filled with holes, just like NYCHA’s excuses,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “NYCHA’s dysfunction risks the health of the residents and costs New York taxpayers millions – yet NYCHA makes no effort to hold private firms accountable to the guarantees we paid for. The hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who call NYCHA home depend on the agency to do the most basic of tasks and to competently maintain their buildings, but this audit shows that NYCHA isn’t even trying. These are opportunities missed and dollars down the drain. This pattern of ineptitude must end.”

Of the 325 developments NYCHA operates, 304 are at least 30 years old. Roof replacements on NYCHA’s buildings require substantial investments: from FY 2000 through FY 2010, NYCHA spent approximately $452 million to replace 715 roofs—an average of $632,000 per roof.  While NYCHA’s costs should be mitigated through 20-year “no-dollar limit” repair and maintenance warranties, NYCHA’s lack of consistent inspections, appropriate maintenance, and notifications to the private roof companies can void those guarantees.

The present audit concluded that NYCHA had failed to implement a systematic program of preventive maintenance and roof-repair by qualified professionals because of ineffective controls at multiple levels of the organization, outdated procedures, broad noncompliance, poor record-keeping, and inattention to roof-warranty administration and enforcement.

July 30, 2019

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