Facing a Thanksgiving freeze, the Housing Authority management vowed to avoid a bad rerun of last winter’s cold blast when heating outages hit developments all over the city.
Even before the temperature dropped, however, they hit a frosty speed bump.
On Tuesday, NYCHA sent out an internal email ordering personnel at all 320 developments to check on every single boiler — all 1,966 of them — on Wednesday and then again on Thanksgiving.
There was only one problem — these workers are not trained on how to deal with boiler problems.
“They’re asking groundskeepers, caretakers, supervisors to go in and check and look at the boilers,” said Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd, who represents 8,000 NYCHA workers.
“People don’t know what they’re looking for. Just like the lead removal didn’t go too well because they weren’t trained.”
After the union confronted management about what they say is a mission of futility, NYCHA managers Wednesday sent out a second “clarification” email making sure workers knew not to actually touch the boilers.
“This email is to clarify the instructions sent yesterday regarding boiler plant inspections,” the email stated. “Property management staff should do a visual inspection of the plant room. Staff should not inspect or touch the heating equipment.”
Floyd questioned the last minute back-and-forth and noted that NYCHA is spending millions of dollars on two private sector vendors to handle boiler breakdowns.
“What are the contractors doing?” he asked. “This is poor planning and poor management. The timing is awful.”
NYCHA spokeswoman Robin Levine said the staff is now clear on their mission.
“We all have a part to play in making sure our residents don’t go without heat or hot water this winter,” he said. “We’ve instructed development staff to check boiler rooms and report any visible leaks or flooding to our emergency services unit so trained staff can quickly follow up to make necessary repairs.”
Even without this lurching about, tenants at the Jefferson Houses in East Harlem — where heat and hot water have been sputtering on and off for weeks — expressed little confidence that the authority would get it right this time.
“It’s been on and off — no heat, no hot water for almost five weeks,” said tenant Jacqueline Davis, 68. “It’s going to be 19 degrees (on Thanksgiving). I can’t imagine no heat. These buildings are old so they hold the cold. We deserve to have heat. We deserve to have hot water.”
Tenant Myrtle Waring, 79, says she needs three blankets at night when the heat shuts down, plus she lives on the first floor right above a persistent basement sewage leak. At one point recently, she passed out from the fumes.
“All I know is the stench coming up from that basement, you can’t take it. It made me feel dizzy. I had to go to the hospital the other day,” she said. “This has been going on now about two months.”
NYCHA said they cleaned the leak up Tuesday, but on Wednesday a Daily News reporter found the building still reeked of effluence. A non-profit legal group, Equal Justice Works Fellow, filed suit over the issue Wednesday.
On Thanksgiving Eve, NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo said all outages would be aggressively attacked, stating that the on-site “heating response team” had been increased to 62 workers per shift, with two shifts on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to midnight.
And he promised the authority would follow up with individual tenants after repairs are made to make sure the heat is actually back in individual apartments.
Last month Mayor de Blasio announced 12 developments had received new boiler plants since last winter, with three more expected to go on-line by the end of this month.