Nathaniel Parris worked for 40 years at the New York City Housing Authority, starting out in the boiler rooms of the sprawling brick complexes.
"I used to work in the boiler room for years," Parris told 7 On Your Side Investigates in an exclusive interview. "I was trained and have good knowledge of the heating operation."
Parris eventually worked his way up to Regional Asset Manager in charge of maintenance for 12 NYCHA developments in the Bronx and Manhattan.
"I was able to identify and say, these are the heating problems, this is how you can solve them," he said.
He claims he repeatedly try to warn top NYCHA supervisors about the deteriorating conditions of the boilers, sending emails and pictures and pleading with them to approve money for repairs.
"I made a lot of noise," he said. "Many complaints to upper management that these are the heating issues that I'm faced with, these are the concerns with not heat, things not working, components missing."
Parris says instead of helping, higher-ups targeted him as a troublemaker and retaliated against him by cutting his maintenance budget.
"I was ignored, it troubled me," he said. "It really troubled me, since I knew money was available."
He believes the widespread loss of heat to hundreds of thousands of NYCHA residents could have been avoided if supervisors heeded his repeated warnings. He retired after nearly four decades at NYCHA and has hired an attorney in anticipation of filing a whistleblower lawsuit against the agency.
"This debacle should have never happened," his attorney, Marcel Florestal, said. "This was no surprise to NYCHA. My client informed them going as far back as 2016."
In a statement to 7 On Your Side Investigates, NYCHA Spokesperson Jasmine Blake said, "We encourage all NYCHA employees to share their concerns so we can better provide for our residents."
Mayor Bill de Blasio has committed $200 million to overhaul aged boilers, and last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for New York City's public housing, which faces $17 billion in deferred maintenance. Cuomo, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary, has earmarked $250 million in state funds for NYCHA and plans to appoint an independent monitor to oversee how that money is spent. It could be another long winter for residents, however, since more than half of NYCHA boilers are past their life expectancy.
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