BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
The New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Next Generation Operations (NGO) program leadership staff took the Queens Tribune on an exclusive tour last week through Astoria Houses, which currently is undergoing the most improvements in the city.
The NGO program, which kicked off in July 2016, was created to better target the maintenance needs within NYCHA.
Under NGO, each development in Queens and Staten Island was instructed to establish a model building that is required to reflect exemplary standards to be modeled throughout the property.
“We’re looking to upgrade janitorial conditions, so that way you can bring staff to say [that] this is a model building and these are the expectations for our development,” said Carolyn Jasper, NGO director for Queens/Staten Island.
Astoria Houses’ model building, located at 4-24 Astoria Blvd., had its lobby floor tiles pulled and is currently waiting for contractors to come back and finish. In the meantime, LED lighting was installed throughout half of the building, including the stairwells. All doorways throughout the building were freshly painted. In addition, approximately $46,000 was funded to replace all elevator floors.
Astoria Houses’ super Benjamin Costa said that while the model building could be completed this week, the remainder of the LED lighting has yet to be shipped.
“The problem is that there has been a greater demand in two-foot lights than in four-foot lights,” said Costa.
Jasper said that Astoria Houses has been able to get to where it is now with the NGO program by empowering property managers and property maintenance supervisors to operate more independently outside of senior management.
“It’s about giving them the tools and ensuring that they have resources to get the job done,” said Jasper.
Rather than provide individual training to staff, all property maintenance staff attend the same trainings, such as managing public houses and customer-care classes.
Of all the NYCHA developments in Queens, thus far, Woodside Houses is the one property that has successfully completed its model building.
According to Jasper, the purpose of the model building is to show residents where all buildings in each development will one day be located.
“The thing is, it’s a work in progress,” said Jasper. “At this time, we may not have enough funding to tile each and every lobby floor. The developments have to make decisions based on funding and the other day-to-day needs that need to be met.”
At the beginning of each year, property management and supervisors are responsible for forecasting and preparing monthly spending plans based on seasonal occurrences and specific needs of their development, which is something that was recently put into place by NYCHA.
“Our operating budget is 100 percent HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development], but since 2001, HUD has not met our 100 percent need, so we have been short for 16 years now and are operating at a shortfall,” said Jasmine Blake, NYCHA’s deputy press secretary.
It is for this reason that Jasper said it is important for residents to pay their rent on time, as this is NYCHA’s primary source of income for operating and renting apartments.
In an effort to use funding wisely, Jasper said that through NGO, generators are being placed on the roofs, so that in the event of another catastrophe like Superstorm Sandy, the development’s source of power will be on the roof and residents will be able to maintain their lights and fuel.
“Everything is going to the roof,” said Rodney Davis, NGO deputy director for Queens/Staten Island. “So, in case of sewage backup or water main breaks, our equipment is protected and we’re not in a situation where we have to send staff immediately to pump out areas to prevent damage to this equipment.”
By placing all equipment on the roof, Davis said that NYCHA will have better control over how staff use their time during an emergency and ensuring that residents don’t lose their services.
Jasper said that flooding in the boiler rooms during Superstorm Sandy caused residents to be without power for weeks.
As of last week, Astoria Houses had just received a shipment of new gas pipes.
Superstorm Sandy not only affected Astoria Houses’ boiler room, but also damaged the underground trenching and wiring, which became corroded. Since then, wire has been connecting the lights until the new posts and LED lighting is put in place.
Approximately eight apartments were directly affected by Sandy. The residents of those apartments were relocated while NYCHA conducted a full rehabilitation of each apartment. The renovations included new walls, floors, crawl spaces, stoves, refrigerators and cabinets.
With most of the work having been funded and given a notice to proceed, several of the projects are slated for completion by 2018.
The already-renovated basketball court will receive fiberglass backboards, with score boards and a track field surrounding the court. In addition, there will be new benches and water fountains placed at the park.
In addition to the installation of new pipelines, LED lighting and floor tiles, roof work is also being completed throughout the development and flood barriers are being placed to protect against storms.
Garbage enclosures will be placed at Astoria Houses, so that staff no longer take the garbage bags from compactor rooms to place in front of buildings, but instead take them to the drop sites—which has thus far encouraged residents to do the same.
“It’s changed the face of the development,” said Jasper. “We’re creating clean, connective communities.”
Currently, NYCHA undergoes a seven-day mandate, which is the average of how long it takes for the completion of maintenance work and addressing repairs. Through the NGO program, the average maintenance service level in Queens is currently 3.5 days, while the borough as a whole has an average of 3.8 days. As of August, Astoria Houses’ service levels are 1.9 days.
“Within the past year, we have made tremendous strides,” said Jasper.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.