Water outages add to woes for Patterson Houses residents

Bronx Borough President speaking with residents at a rally at Patterson Houses on Dec. 3. Photo courtesy of the Bronx Borough President’s office.

Public housing tenants say they’re fed up with ‘band-aid’ fixes

Residents of NYCHA’s Patterson Houses rushed to the fire hydrant outside 300 E. 143rd St. on the first Sunday afternoon in December to draw water. But there was no fire to quickly extinguish; instead, residents lined up alongside the hydrant with buckets in-hand because their running water had been abruptly cut off without notice. 

House water pumps broke down earlier that morning, and outages affected more than 4,000 residents across eight high-rise buildings, according to The Legal Aid Society. The incident brought to light yet another reason why NYCHA’s cursory fixes for systemic issues aren’t deemed sustainable by residents or housing advocates.

Patricia Simpson, the tenant association president at the Patterson Houses, who has lived in the development for about 30 years, said residents should continue to be angry until viable long-term solutions are put into place.

“Why should people be satisfied with temporary labor?” she said. “Nothing has been changed, they [NYCHA] puts band-aids on issues instead of repairing.”

NYCHA’s infrastructure is in desperate need of a major overhaul, one that the agency has projected to cost nearly $32 billion in total repairs and replacements over the next five years, according to NYCHA’s 2017 Projected Needs Assessment. Patterson’s capital needs alone, within that same time frame, total more than $26 million. That capital is necessary to cover the costs of apartment, architectural, electrical and mechanical needs.

On Tuesday, irate residents rallied outside the Patterson Houses management office with Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. to demand answers. His office later said that “NYCHA needs to do better.”

“No more excuses,” Díaz’s office told the Herald in a statement. “Our office will continue to work with stakeholders at every level to ensure that NYCHA tenants are getting the services they are entitled to, especially during the upcoming cold season.”

But some residents believe that public attention simply isn’t enough anymore.

With winter around the corner, some residents expressed concern about the timeliness of NYCHA’s ability to conduct repairs.

“Nothing is urgent no more, it doesn’t matter how urgent it is for you,” said Gloria Anderson, 62, a resident at Patterson for 50 years. “They [NYCHA] are cutting corners, and we suffer.”

NYCHA declined to comment for this story, but an agency source familiar with the situation said that water was restored to the affected Patterson buildings by late Sunday night. Residents confirmed they had running water by Monday.

Still, Clarisa Alayeto, 36, who filmed residents drawing water from the fire hydrant and uploaded videos to Facebook that received thousands of views, said NYCHA is “reactive and not proactive.”

“Instead of putting out the fire they’re just always chasing the smoke,” said Alayeto, who grew up in the Patterson complex and whose grandmother currently lives there.

While complete water outages aren’t regular occurrences, other problems such as a lack of access to heat or hot water appear to be routine, and Patterson is not alone. As of the writing of this article, nine buildings holding more than 1,600 residents across the entire city have reported interruptions with heat, hot water, or both, none of which were planned, according to the agency’s website. Even though NYCHA has restored 23 other service interruptions across the city regarding the same issues within the past 24 hours, according to the agency, the recurring nature of these breakdowns prove that a different solution of much larger magnitude is vital. 

“We need more than just news coverage, we need a start date and a completion date,” Simpson said. “We know what we need, but we don’t know how we gonna get it.”