Tag Archives: NYCHA

Mayor de Blasio promises NYCHA overhaul to fix finances, repairs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC Mayor Office's Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan Tuesday to help revitalize public housing and fix financial problems of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) by using the housing complexes more efficiently and reducing expenses.

The plan, NextGeneration NYCHA, involves various initiatives targeted to save the reeling city agency, which has only “one month remaining of surplus cash on hand and after that will go into deficit,” de Blasio said.

This includes leasing land in public housing complexes to developers to build more units, half of which must be used for affordable housing for families earning no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income, or about $46,600 annually for a family of three.

Also, 10,000 completely affordable units will be created in complexes in Brooklyn and the Bronx on underutilized, street-facing lots currently used for parking, trash or storage sites. These programs will cross over with de Blasio’s goal of creating 80,000 affordable housing units in 10 years.

“I believe that NYCHA began as a national model, and as a national model I believe it began as an idea that was so powerful because it was a place for hard-working people to find a decent home in the midst of an economic crisis,” de Blasio said. “Well today we find ourselves in a different kind of economic crisis for so many of our families and they need that decent home and they need it to be protected.”

After losing federal subsidies since 2001, NYCHA has ignored the need for repairs and renovations, and will need approximately $17 billion for repairs and capital expenditures in five years without the plan.

The city calculates NextGeneration NYCHA will generate annual operating surpluses of more than $230 million over 10 years for the city agency.

To cut expenses, the city will send about 1,000 central office NYCHA workers to other city agencies by 2018, so the housing authority can save $90 million.

In addition, starting in fiscal year 2015 the de Blasio administration and the City Council agreed to waive the $30 million in payments NYCHA gives the city each year— a fee that dates back to 1949.

Created in 1934 during the Great Depression under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, NYCHA now has more than 403,000 residents in nearly 178,000 apartments around the five boroughs. The city agency has 22 developments and 17,126 apartments in Queens, including the Queensbridge Houses, which have the largest development in the borough with 3,142 apartments.

Also in the plan, NYCHA is hoping to do a better job at collecting rents. In 2014 NYCHA was owed more than $56 million in total back rent from prior years. The city agency currently collects about 74 percent of total rents each year, while there are about 54,000 families that are at least one month behind in payments.

The agency will also begin charging more for parking spaces. Currently they are about $300 a year, but will be up to $150 a month for tenants, who will be offered the spaces first. Unclaimed spaces will be offered to the public after.

Other upgrades to NYCHA will come with technology enhancements and customer service. There will be a new repair tracking system, where residents can go online a see the status of their repairs, and there will be a one-week deadline for basic repairs.

Also, in July, the agency will release its mobile app, MyNYCHA, where residents can, among other things, view, schedule and reschedule requests for maintenance service.

“We have got to have a better quality of life for our residents,” de Blasio said. “It’s long overdue.”

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BP secures $250K for new pre-K program at Queens Library in Ravenswood Houses


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of BP Melinda Katz's office

More than 30 seats are being added to School District 30, as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz secured funding for a new pre-K program at a Queens Library branch at one Astoria housing development.

Katz announced Tuesday she will be allocating discretionary capital funding to create a new, free, full-day pre-K program at the Ravenswood library located within the NYCHA Ravenswood Houses at 35-32 21st St.

This new program will add 36 seats to District 30, which is known for being overcrowded and having one of the largest pre-K seat shortages in the borough for the upcoming school year. The Ravenswood site was approved last year by the Department of Buildings to operate a pre-K program.

“Addressing the pre-K seat shortage for the upcoming school year has been a priority, especially in Districts 30 and 24,” Katz said. “The Queens Library has taken one of the more creative initiatives we’ve seen to launch pre-K programs at our beloved libraries throughout the borough. Our libraries are treasured, safe community hubs for enrichment and lifelong learning, and starting the educational pathway from pre-K here is a natural fit.”

The cost to modify the Ravenswood library into the new pre-K program is estimated at $572,000, according to the Department of Design and Construction. An initial $250,000 was committed by the Shoolman Foundation, as well as $72,000 from the Department of Education.

Katz will be securing the remaining $250,000 allowing the program to become a reality.

“This funding is great news for the Ravenswood community and for the children of western Queens,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris. “We know that pre-K makes a huge difference in the lives of our young students and I am glad that we are adding space in an area that so desperately needs more school seats.”

The Ravenswood library’s entire space will be used to run the pre-K program from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. During non-school hours, the library will be used as a Family Literacy Learning Center, offering ESL courses and other classes for adults.

“The Ravenswood library is a prime location to house and expand our city’s already successful universal pre-kindergarten program,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “With the addition of two UPK classes we can provide more children a head start in getting the education they rightfully deserve.”

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City to spend $300M over next three years on NYCHA housing roof replacements


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) announced a new initiative that will benefit thousands of residents, including those at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, in the upcoming years.

The city officials announced Saturday that $100 million will be going toward addressing the issue of mold at NYCHA housing developments. This funding comes from the mayor’s pledge to match the state’s $100 million investment in NYCHA.

In addition to this initial funding, over the next two years the city will continue to invest $100 million a year for roof replacements – totaling $300 million over three years.

“Years of federal and state disinvestment have led to deteriorating buildings, depriving tenants of the level of housing they deserve,” de Blasio said. “By making these critical investments in our aging NYCHA buildings, we are both protecting our residents – many of whom are children – and saving money spent on repairing these buildings.”

The first year’s funding, which is expected to begin construction next month, will cover the roof replacement on 66 buildings throughout the city, benefiting about 13,000 residents. These buildings were selected because they have the highest number of maintenance repair requests such as leak and painting repair, and mold work orders.

Included in these buildings are the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, which will see 14 buildings on both the south and north sides of the development get roofs replaced.

The funding will replace the roofs and parapets, which are the protective walls along the roofs. This replacement is expected to eliminate core symptoms of mold, reduce operating expenses and preserve the structures by safeguarding them from moisture.

“This is a welcome announcement to the residents of the Queensbridge Houses who have waited many years for the completion of these critical repairs,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “This responsible investment will benefit thousands of New Yorkers and allow NYCHA to dedicate scarce resources to other essential improvements citywide.”

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Man killed in Astoria shooting


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Police are investigating a deadly shooting in Astoria Sunday evening.

Sean Overton, 42, was gunned down just after 5 p.m. outside the Astoria Houses at 2-10 Astoria Blvd., authorities said.

Officers found Overton, who lived at the NYCHA complex, lying on his back with one gunshot wound to his neck and another to his torso, police said.

He was taken to Mount Sinai Queens, where he was pronounced dead.

There have been no arrests.

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Man arrested in deadly shooting at Pomonok Houses


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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Updated 4:17 p.m.

Police have arrested a man for gunning down a Flushing resident in the doorway of an apartment at the Pomonok Houses early last month, authorities said.

Shyron Kearse, 34, is accused of fatally shooting Troy Grant at the New York City Housing Authority complex on Jan. 2 in what was the first Queens homicide of 2015.

Cops found Grant, 30, with a gunshot wound to the head inside his home at the Pomonok Houses on 71st Avenue at about 2:30 a.m., cops said.

That morning, Grant heard a knock on the door and the doorbell ring, according to the district attorney’s office. When he answered, Kearse, an acquaintance, allegedly shot him in the head and shoulder before fleeing. Grant was pronounced dead at the scene.

Kearse, a resident of another Pomonok Houses building, has been charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon, authorities said.

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Free legal clinic services to be offered for NYCHA residents


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office

NYCHA residents are getting a helping hand to make their lives easier.

The Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer launched free legal clinic services on Monday that will serve residents of the New York City Housing Authority.

“NYCHA residents deserve stability and the right to live in dignity,” said Van Bramer, who helped allocate $50,000 toward the services. “Through these services thousands of NYCHA residents will be given the legal resources they need to fight against wrongful evictions and poor living conditions that have plagued so many families for far too long.”

Known as the “NYCHA Dignity Campaign,’’ legal clinics will be made available to residents at the Jacob A. Riis Settlement House, located at 10-25 41st Ave., in the Queensbridge Houses on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On the second and fourth Friday of each month clinics will be available on the fourth-floor conference room at Councilman Donovan Richards’ Rockaway office located at 19-31 Mott Ave.

“This free service will be vital service for all NYCHA residents,” said April Simpson-Taylor, president of the Queensbridge Tenants Association. “A lot of the residents will use this service because of the issues they face with housing. Whether they are with repairs in apartments, pending evictions or termination of their leases, these free legal services will give a voice to residents when it comes to fighting for the issues they care deeply about.”

The clinics will be offered by a team of attorneys, advocates, researchers and operations staff who will provide help with public assistance benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, shelter applications for homeless families and adult couples, and also public housing issues.

“I have nothing but great hope for this program and we hope it [goes] on to make the lives of NYCHA residents better,” Simpson-Taylor said.

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Meeting held to strengthen relationship between western Queens NYCHA residents and NYPD


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Residents of NYCHA developments in western Queens came together Saturday afternoon to discuss strengthening relationships with the police officers assigned to protect them.

The community gathered during a meeting organized by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Victoria Schneps, publisher of The Queens Courier, with members of the NYPD to go over resident concerns and ways to build communication between community members and police.

“If we work together we’re going to be so much stronger,” Maloney said. “I think it’s important we come together and we try to figure out how we can make this city stronger because we’re only stronger when we’re together.”

During the meeting, residents voiced problems such as more lighting, more community engagement and communication by police officers who patrol the areas, and also support within the actual community between the older and younger generations.

“We are thrilled to be able to participate in bringing people in the community together,” Schneps said. “That’s what we are about, that’s what community journalism is about. Making sure we are talking to each other, many times through the pages of our papers, but also in person.”

Those present at the meeting at the Jacob Riis Settlement House, located at 10-25 41st Ave., within the Queensbridge Houses, included leaders from the Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Astoria and Woodside NYCHA houses.

NYPD representatives included Captain Mark A. Simmons, the commanding officer of Police Service Area (PSA) 9, which patrols the Queensbridge Houses, and members of the 114th Precinct.

“One of the things we have to do is when you see a police officer, thank them for their job, thank them for putting their lives on the line, thank them for going out on the streets to protect them,” Maloney said. “We have to show them that they are respected by people.

One resident of the Queensbridge Houses for 28 years, who goes by the name Sugaray, asked the officers available to show residents that they are more than just officers by coming by the neighborhood without uniforms.

“Come out and just be part of the community, show that you are human,” he said. “When we can see that the people in uniform are human and we can connect on a human-to-human level, that’s what builds relationships, that’s how you can build unity in the community.”

Simmons thanked the community for their support and said that by working together they will be able to get crime down.

“The greatest thing for you guys to know is that we support you and you support us and that’s the bond that we have here in PSA9,” Simmons added. “I am very proud to be here and I am very grateful that we are working together in the manner in which we are.”

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Threats against police spray-painted in Pomonok Houses


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Anti-cop graffiti aimed at a Queens precinct was found in the Pomonok Houses earlier this week, according to police.

The threats were found on Monday in a restricted section of the basement in one of the buildings that makes up the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complex Pomonok Houses, police said.

The graffiti reads, “PSA-9 [and] 107 Pct R Next to Die.”

The targets of this threat are against the 107th Precinct, which covers a part of Queens that includes the Pomonok Houses, and PSA-9, a housing police unit that patrols the complex. The basement is used as a storage facility for maintenance workers and it is restricted to New York Housing Authority officials who have the key to open the door.

“The cops around here seem pretty nervous about the threat,” said Denise Williams, a resident of the houses. “But then again, the cops have always been on edge when dealing with people here.”

Williams noted that tensions between the community and police have been more strained than usual since the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Police said that the NYPD’s Vandal Task Force was investigating the case but no arrests have been made. NYCHA didn’t respond to requests for comment to explain how someone was able to get into a locked area.

The NYPD has been investigating a wave of threats against officers in the aftermath of the shooting of two members of the Police Department on Dec. 20 when Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were gunned down on a Brooklyn street corner. The shooter, who committed suicide, had said on social media sites that he wanted to kill police officers.

A Glendale man was arrested on weapons charges Dec. 24 after he was overheard saying that the officers murdered in Brooklyn should have been white and he wanted to kill cops, authorities said.

The threats were reported to cops who later pulled over 38-year-old Elvin Payamps of Glendale while he was driving. A search of his home turned up metal knuckles, a loaded pistol, a shotgun with a defaced serial number, ammunition and two bulletproof vests, according to DA Richard Brown.

In an interview after his arrest, Payamps insisted his comments were misconstrued by whoever reported them to cops. “Whatever happened to free speech? I was only saying an opinion,” Payamps told The Post.

As of New Year’s Day, the NYPD was investigating at least 60 threats against cops, mostly found on social media sites.

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Man fatally shot at Pomonok Houses


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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A 30-year-old man was gunned down at the door of a Flushing apartment, authorities said.

Police found the victim with a bullet would to the head inside the Pomonok Houses on 71st Avenue at about 2:30 a.m. on Friday, cops said.

The man, who did not live at the home, was shot in the doorway, according to authorities.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing.

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Man shot dead, another stabbed in dispute near Woodside Houses


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

A confrontation between two men Friday night near the New York City Housing Authority’s Woodside Houses resulted in the stabbing of one man and shooting death of another, cops said.

The violence broke out after James Sloane, 30, and Jose Feliciano, 50, got into a dispute, at about 11:15 p.m., around 50-30 Broadway, authorities said. Feliciano stabbed Sloane, who then pulled out a gun and shot the older man, according to police.

Both men were taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where Feliciano was pronounced dead.

Police arrested Sloane and charged him with murder, criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with evidence, cops said.

 

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Man wanted in non-fatal LIC shooting


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a 33-year-old man they say shot three people in March at the NYCHA Queensbridge South Houses in Long Island City.

On Sunday, March 23 Shalarmel Nieves left a party he was attending near 41-16 12th St. at 1:35 a.m. and a short time later came back and began shooting at a group of people standing in front of 41-16 12th St., according to cops.

Nieves shot three victims and then fled the scene. A 50-year-old woman, was shot in the leg and taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital, a 25-year-old man, was shot in the foot and taken to Cornell Hospital, and a 23-year-old man was shot in the leg and taken to Lenox Hill Hospital. All three were listed in stable condition, police said.

The NYPD describe Nieves as 5 feet 8 inches tall, Hispanic and 175 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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91-year-old WWII veteran fighting NYCHA for Flushing apartment


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

 
Ninety-one-year-old Ralph Calinda has fought his fair share of battles over his lifetime.

He fought for the United States during World War II, he battles diabetes and high blood pressure every day, and now he’s facing a different conflict — keeping the apartment he has called home for more than 60 years.

Calinda lives alone in a three-bedroom apartment in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Pomonok Houses in Flushing. Through NYCHA’s downsizing policy, which moves residents who “overuse apartments” to smaller ones, the city agency wants to kick him out of his home.

They have sent letters to force him to take one-bedroom apartments, but in foreign neighborhoods such as the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City and the Ravenswood Houses in Astoria. Finally, they asked him to move to an apartment in the Pomonok Houses, but it lacked essential appliances and was unfurnished. Calinda, who retired nearly three decades ago, believes he wouldn’t even be able to make the move physically or financially, since he depends on social security payments.

Councilman Rory Lancman and other politicians rallied with Calinda and his family against the NYCHA policy in a protest on Friday, to call on the agency to halt its downsizing of senior residents and to overhaul the initiative.

“They have lately stepped up in a very, very aggressive way,” Lancman said about NYCHA. “We are here today to demand that they stop and that they treat their long-time residents like valuable citizens of the communities that they’ve lived in, rather than as pieces of furniture they can move around from one place to the other.”

Calinda uses a cane to walk, and that’s only during the rare times he leaves his apartment. “Pop,” as he is known among family members, friends and neighbors, now enjoys painting, word puzzles and gardening.

But before he retired, Calinda used to build fighter jets for the Air Force. He even helped build the NASA space shuttles, and although Calinda wouldn’t say which one, he allegedly engraved the name of his late wife on the tail of one of the space rockets.

Calinda raised seven children from his apartment, which has six rooms, counting a living room, kitchen and a bathroom. He said he may have been willing to leave if NYCHA first came to him when his kids became adults and left 30 years ago, but not now.

“It’s been my home for so long, I just think it should be my home forever,” he said.

NYCHA has yet to return a request for comment.

 

 

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Woman to give free manicures at Socrates Sculpture Park


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Mikel Durlam

Breanne Trammell is taking her revamped 1968 compact trailer back out on the road to help polish the lives of local western Queens moms in need of a well-deserved pampering.

Last year, Trammell, a Wassaic, N.Y. resident, professional manicurist and core member of the nonprofit The Wassaic Project, embarked on a cross-country road trip she called Nails Across America.

During the trip she visited 20 different states as part of her experimental art project known as “Nails in the Key of Life,” where she uses manicures as the way to exchange ideas, start conversations and collect people’s stories. During her road trip, she would give women, men and children free manicures inside a 1968 Shasta compact trailer she transformed into a mobile nail salon.


                                   Photo by Mikel Durlam

Each person who sported one of Trammell’s manicures would receive a signed and numbered letter-pressed certificate to celebrate his or her involvement in the project.

“The idea is to reach out to as many kinds of people, from all walks of life, and use it as a way to honor them and their experiences, and share their experiences and stories,” Trammell said. “Manicures are usually expensive. It’s been my intention from the very beginning, this is totally accessible for anyone.”

Now, months after returning from her trip, Trammell will take the trailer back out and make a trip to Long Island City’s Socrates Sculpture Park for its spring/summer season opening on Mother’s Day on May 11.

During the event, which will feature the opening of three brand new exhibitions, Trammell will be giving free manicures by the park’s new 50-foot-long, 18-foot-high “Queen Mother of Reality” sculpture by Polish artist Pawel Althamer.

Although the manicures will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, most of the appointments will be filled by mothers from the nearby NYCHA housing development Astoria Houses.


                        Photo by Chuka Chukuma

“We are making sure the people that deserve it are getting it,” said Elissa Goldstone, exhibition program manager at Socrates Sculpture Park. “We are giving women a moment to be praised and to be focused on.”

While the mothers get pampered by Trammell, their children will also be able to take part in workshops conducted by the grass-roots nonprofit Minor Miracles Foundation.

Goldstone said Trammell’s trailer and free manicures pair nicely with the sculpture that was dedicated to Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, who has served as Community Mayor of Harlem since being sworn in by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1995.

Visitors will be allowed to enter the sculpture and get a view of the Manhattan skyline, and, later, get a tour of Trammell’s trailer.

“Breanne’s trailer has similar reclaimed, handmade, but also sacred and secured interior in this larger setting,” Goldstone said. “It’s that privateness that brings out these intimate moments.”

During that weekend, Socrates Sculpture Park will also debut the LIC Art Bus which will offer free weekend door-to-door service from noon to 6 p.m. between Socrates, SculptureCenter, The Noguchi Museum and MoMA PS1.

 

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FEMA to pay for Sandy-damaged boilers in Rockaway NYCHA buildings


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents in the Rockaways and other parts of the city will receive a much needed fix to their buildings following Superstorm Sandy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday that 60 boilers in 110 separate NYCHA residential buildings in the Rockaways, Coney Island and the Lower East Side that were damaged in the storm will be replaced.

FEMA will provide approximately $100 million in funding for the “new state-of-the-art-boilers.” Since Sandy, NYCHA has been spending $3 million per month for temporary boilers in the buildings.

Officials said that instead of repairing the boilers, as is normal, FEMA had agreed to replace them, speeding up the process of restoring regular service to the affected buildings.

“For more than 16 months, bureaucratic infighting and red tape have denied NYCHA residents the most basic of necessities—reliable heat and hot water,” Schumer said. “Today we’re firmly on the path to righting a wrong that has too often left NYCHA residents in the cold during the winter and in the dark at night.”

The final funding agreement is expected to be in place in time so boiler replacement can start later this year, according to Schumer.

 

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Queens highways, other city infrastructure ‘badly’ in need of repair: report


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons / Jim.henderson

Queens is facing some serious infrastructure challenges, according to a new report.

The Center for an Urban Future found the borough has five of the nine worst maintained highways in the city.

Based on a 10-point scale, where 1 to 5 is considered “poor,” 6 is “fair,” 7 to 8 is “good,” and 9 to 10 is “excellent,” in 2012, the Jackie Robinson Parkway received a surface rating of 5.8, and the Shore Front Parkway, Cross Bay Parkway Route 25A and Route 24 earned a 6.0.

Overall, highway conditions in the borough have been deteriorating, the report said. In 2008, 38 percent of Queens highways were rated “fair” or “poor.” Four years later, 52 percent were in the same shape.

The report, released Tuesday, showed additional infrastructure issues in the borough.

About 30 percent of its streets were in “fair” or “poor” condition.

Other findings showed that Queens New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments have the most deteriorated building façades and roofs, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspections. Four of the NYCHA complexes in the borough need over $70 million in façade repairs through 2016.

Several of the city’s oldest wastewater treatment plants are in eastern Queens, including Jamaica (1943) and Bowery Bay near Flushing (1939), according to the report.

John F. Kennedy International Airport also needs upgrades due to age.

Its facilities are 40 years old on average, “with 63 percent of cargo space considered ‘non-viable,’ or unfit for modern screening, storage and distribution,” the report said.

Queens was not alone in its infrastructure problems.

The report calculated that New York City needs $47 billion over the next four to five years to bring its “aging infrastructure to a state of good repair.”

It found that a “significant portion” of the city’s bridges, water mains, sewer pipes, school buildings and other important infrastructure is more than 50 years old and “badly” in need of repair.

“New York won’t be able to address every one of the city’s infrastructure vulnerabilities at this time,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future and co-editor of the report. “But if a significant chunk of the city’s critical infrastructure is not brought to a state of good repair in the years ahead, it could seriously undermine the city’s economic competitiveness and quality of life—and lead to substantial long-term costs.”

The aging infrastructure includes 1,000 miles of water mains more than 100 years old; more than 160 bridges across the five boroughs that were built over a century ago; and 6,300 miles of gas mains that are on average, 56 years old.

The report suggests creating new dedicated revenue sources to pay for repairing and modernizing infrastructure.

 

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