Spokesperson for NYCHA's federal monitor reaches out following Eyewitness News investigation

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A spokesperson for the federal monitor assigned to oversee the New York City Housing Authority following federal charges that the agency failed in its duty to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing reached out to 7 On Your Side Investigates following a recent Eyewitness News report examining repeated elevator outages in public housing.

The spokesperson for the monitor, Bart Schwartz, indicated the monitor's commitment to resolving deficiencies such as those exposed in the Eyewitness News report across all NYCHA properties but was not at liberty to discuss the monitor's efforts at specific properties.

Last month, Schwartz released a 267-page report outlining the problems plaguing NYCHA and describing initial steps to improve performance.

That report found that "NYCHA's data is often incomplete, imprecise, and/or inaccessible, creating an inaccurate perception of NYCHA's performance."

The report went on to say that NYCHA indicated "an impressive number of work orders," that "could be identified as 'closed' without a repair actually being successfully completed," because the agency routinely opened a new work order for each step in a repair even if the repair itself had not yet been completed.

7 On Your Side Investigates found tenants plagued by repeated elevator outages at the Butler Houses in the Bronx, leaving individuals with mobility challenges unable to access their homes and others to brave the buildings 21-stories on foot.

"How are we supposed to live like this?" asked Jarinette Medrano, who lives in the building. "They're not fixing them, but they expect people to pay their rent on time."

In 2018, NYCHA data, according to the monitor, indicated that each of its elevators was out of service an average of 1.13 times per month, with an average outage duration of 12 hours.

How long outages have actually lasted is hard to say according to the monitor's report, because NYCHA historically calculated the duration of outages from the time the outage was entered into NYCHA's database not the time the outages actually began.

The monitor's report also largely supported NYCHA's claims to Eyewitness News that extensive capital improvement needs are contributing to the regular elevator outages.

NYCHA estimated it needs nearly $32 billion to fully address its aging infrastructure.

The monitor described the agency's elevator portfolio as "beyond its expected lifespan and/or otherwise in poor working condition."

While elevator upgrades and replacements are scheduled to occur over several years, the monitor has begun working toward immediate solutions to elevator outages with NYCHA.

Among action items discussed with the agency's elevator team is, "the need for a detailed plan for assisting residents with mobility impairments when a building has a total elevator outage."

NYCHA, along with the monitor, have established a working group that meets biweekly to identify "immediate solutions" and an "action plan" with "concrete objectives."

The Butler Houses, profiled by Eyewitness News, are not scheduled for elevator modernization until 2023 and tenants complain that is too long to wait.

"We are people too," said Will Porter, who lives in the building. "It's ridiculous."

----------
DO YOU NEED A STORY INVESTIGATED? Danielle Leigh and the 7 On Your Side Investigates team at Eyewitness News want to hear from you! Call our confidential tip line 1-877-TIP-NEWS (847-6397) or fill out the form BELOW. You can also contact Danielle Leigh directly:

Email your questions, issues, or story ideas to 7OnYourSideDanielle@abc.com

Facebook: DanielleLeighJournalist

Twitter: @DanielleNLeigh

Instagram: @DanielleLeighNews

Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.