Thursday, August 6, 2009

NYCHA overcharges rent due to computer "error"

NY Times,

Computer Error Caused Rent Woes for Public Housing Tenants

By MANNY FERNANDEZ Published: August 5, 2009

The city’s public housing agency overcharged hundreds of welfarefamilies because of a rent calculation error and took many of them tocourt, threatening them with eviction for failing to pay the higheramount.The computer problem at the agency, the New York City HousingAuthority, is in the process of being corrected and none of thetenants were evicted, officials said. But the error, which began lastSeptember and continued until May, had serious legal, financial andpersonal consequences for many low-income families.Residents affected by the miscalculations were ordered to appear inHousing Court for nonpayment of the extra rent, tried in vain toconvince building managers that there had been a mistake and lived inconstant fear of losing their homes because they could not or wouldnot pay the extra money — often as little as $50 to $200 a month —that the agency claimed it was owed.The problem affected only households whose sole income is public assistance.One tenant at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem made six appearancesin Housing Court from October to May, when the Housing Authoritydropped the case after her lawyers, with the firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf,threatened to sue the agency. Like other tenants taken to court, shereceived free legal help.And a tenant at the Jefferson Houses, also in East Harlem, borrowedhundreds of dollars from relatives to try to pay off nearly $1,000 inback rent that had been miscalculated.“It’s been frustrating, depressing and nerve-racking,” said theJefferson Houses tenant, Janet Rivera, 45, whose daughter dropped outof the Borough of Manhattan Community College this year after thefamily received an eviction notice. “I really did think I had tomove.”It is not unusual for tenants, especially in government-subsidizedhousing, to dispute how their landlords calculate their rent. But thescale of the Housing Authority, the city’s biggest landlord, and itsfailure to catch the problem for months turned a simple computer errorinto an ordeal for welfare families.“This is a population that, if they’re evicted from the HousingAuthority, will enter the shelter system,” said Sheryl Karp, housingsupervisor for the Harlem office of the nonprofit Legal Aid Society,which represented Ms. Rivera and another tenant who was overcharged.“The Housing Authority should have systems in place to protect thesefamilies, rather than subjecting them to the risk of eviction andhomelessness.”A Housing Authority spokesman said that tenants were mistakenlycharged based on the number of people in a household, instead of thenumber of people receiving public assistance. That led to an averagemonthly gap of $183 between the rent covered by the city’s welfareagency, the Human Resources Administration, and the amount charged bythe Housing Authority. The authority then pursued families in HousingCourt to pay the difference before the mistake was discovered. Tocompensate for overcharges, rent credits are now being provided totenants by the agency.It is unclear exactly how many tenants were overcharged and how manyhad nonpayment-of-rent cases filed against them because of the error.The agency said 1,973 families met the criteria for a possible error,but a more precise number was not available because there was oftenmore than one reason a nonpayment-of-rent case was filed.In June, a judge said there were three to five cases being heard inBrooklyn Housing Court each week in which public housing tenantsraised concerns about overcharges.The public housing agency “discovered a problem with its welfare rentcalculation system and has been proactive in addressing the issue,”its general manager, Douglas Apple, said in a statement. He said thatthe agency “moved quickly to ensure that its residents were not hurtby this by granting rent credits and ensured that no one would beadversely effected by legal action stemming from a rent calculationerror. Based on current data, no one has been evicted” and no familiesare still in Housing Court as a result of the error.Tenant advocates say the rent credits are inadequate, and they wantthe agency to compensate those wrongfully taken to court and toreimburse those who made payments on their rent arrears, like Ms.Rivera.A Housing Authority spokesman said the agency is prepared to grantcash reimbursements to tenants who can prove they made paymentsbecause of the error.Some tenants complained that the authority failed to take theirconcerns seriously for months.Migdalia Arroyo, 55, was informed by the Housing Authority last yearthat the new rent for her apartment in the Taft Houses in East Harlemwas $413.60. But the rent the city welfare agency agreed to pay forMs. Arroyo was $215. She refused to pay the difference, and byFebruary, she owed hundreds of dollars and had a nonpayment-of-rentcase filed against her. It was dropped after a Legal Aid Societylawyer started representing her.“You don’t sleep,” said Ms. Arroyo’s daughter, Indira Cruz, 35. “Youthink that at any time the marshal is going to knock on the door.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Soundview hot water problems

It has come to my attention that the Soundview development has been experiencing hot water interruptions.

I advised the tenant to make a recording of the dates and times and speak to their housing assistant first. I do not believe that it will lead to the repair of their hot water system however, it is the first step. The next step is to reach out to your assembly representative and other housing/tenants coalitions in the neighborhood who may be of help.

As everyone knows this blog is for all NYCHA tenants. If you are experiencing a problem please write in your concerns. And of course, everyone is encouraged to write in with advice.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Elevators out of service and Chairman Rhea's commitment to NYCHA residents

For several months Building #9 of the Frederick Douglass Houses has experienced an elevator out of service. The sign on elevator B says repairs will be done and the “expected date” for the elevator to return to service is ASAP. The problem is that the elevator has been out of service for several months. The sign in June said ASAP. The sign in July said ASAP and the current sign for August says ASAP.

The elevator has been out of service (on and off) since the spring. What does ASAP mean to NYCHA? I do not understand how our tenant association tolerates this and more importantly I don’t understand how the tenants tolerate it.

I continue to see older people who can barely walk go up the stairs. We have tenants that are wheelchair bound. Many of them cannot leave their apartment because with only one elevator working there is no guarantee that when they return it will still work.

In the New York City Housing Authority Journal, Vol. 39, No. 7, John B. Rhea, the new Chair of the New York City Housing Authority states that “the best years for public housing are still ahead.”

Mr. Rhea claims that he asked NYCHA employees to fill out anonymous and confidential questionnaires “to help get a better sense of what the real underlying issues are at the Housing Authority.”

Mr. Rhea the problem is two fold. Many tenants do not care. And the ones that care soon lose interest when they are faced with the road blocks NYCHA puts on its tenants. NYCHA will not repair plastering if the apartment is not up for painting which is every 4 years. The painting list is several years long in some complexes. So if you are a tenant that wants to take care of your apartment and ask NYCHA to make plaster repairs to your walls and/or ceilings NYCHA refuses.

This is the cause of why so many apartments are falling apart. Mr. Rhea, I hope you have more than a vision for NYCHA. NYCHA needs a person who can produce results.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

They speak Martian

The water tank in our building must be leaking. We are losing water pressure and the hot water is not getting as hot as it used to. So I called the Centralized Call Center for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). I spoke to Mr. Chavez. I told Mr. Chavez that the water tank must be leaking because the ENTIRE building is losing pressure and the hot water is not heating up as usual. After having me wait several minutes so he could do whatever he needed to do Mr. Chavez told me that the hot water issue will be addressed within 24 hours. He then issued a ticket for MY apartment for next week for the water pressure. I told him, "I don't understand why does NYCHA needs to come to MY apartment to check MY water pressure when I told you that the ENTIRE building is losing pressure probably because of a leak?" Mr. Chavez replied, "that right ma'am." Is it me???????????

Monday, October 13, 2008

Where is the outcry by the tenants and the union for NYCHA employees, Local Teamster 237?

Eleven day old Christian McFadden died this weekend. Jacob Newman, age 5 died on August 19, 2008. Neither of these children should have died. But both Christian and Jacob lived in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments. Christian in the Van Dyke Houses and Jacob in the Taylor-Wythe Apartment Complex, owned and overseen by New York City Housing Authority. Both children died because of the neglect of the New York City Housing Authority. The New York Housing Authority has continuously cut back services due to funding loses. The truth is that NYCHA, the State of New York, the Federal government and the City of New York can find the money to fund the starving public housing development. Like the MTA who always screams poverty to raise the fare, NYCHA screams cut backs from all government sources as their excuse to allow the buildings and grounds to deteriorate.
As a resident at the Frederick Douglass Houses in the Upper West Side I am appalled by the neglect these buildings are going through. But more appalling is the indifference of the tenants of New York City Housing and its employees.
According to the New York City Housing Authority website as of July 3, 2008 there were 178,137 apartments in 343 developments; 2,636 residential buildings; 173,808 families and 403,535 authorized residents; 3,337 elevators and 12,600 employees. With well over half a million tenants why are the buildings over run with deficiencies like broken elevators, dirty stairs, dirty hallways, dirty lobbies, asbestos in apartments, hallways, stairways. Mold in apartments. Leaky roofs. Broken windows. Lack of hot water and/or heat. Rats and cockroaches and faulty electrical work. Just to name a few problems. Can you imagine the power of nearly 600,000 tenants and 12,600 employees uniting to make The New York City Housing Authority accountable? Where is the outcry by the tenants and the union for NYCHA employees, Local Teamster 237? How many more must die before the voices unite as one and shake the establishment down to its foundation?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Why aren’t the tenants of Frederick Douglass Houses fed up and mad as hell

Without struggle there is no progress-Frederick Douglass
Last night I came home to a sign that said: “No hot water from 4pm until further notice”. Living in NYCHA that could mean weeks or months. I went to the management office this morning to speak to my housing assistant but she had to go to court. I asked the receptionist to find out what was going on…and what did “until further notice” meant. She called maintenance and she told me that they told her that the hot water was turned on last night at 11pm. I told her it wasn’t, otherwise I would not have been there, duh! I went home to double check and called her to tell her that the hot water was NOT turned on. She transferred me to Mr. Richter. Nasty, nasty man. He told me that he was a “housing assistant” not maintenance – yeah, that means you are a liaison – anyway he was not helpful and hung up on me. I called several local politicians to find out what is going on and when is the hot water going to be turned on.What really upsets me is that Douglass Houses is a large development. Seventeen (17) buildings, 2,054 apartments, over 4,500 tenants. And I am the only one complaining. How humiliating. How insulting. The majority of the tenants are African Americans or Hispanic. Low income families. And they allow the New York City Housing Authority to treat them like animals. Douglass Houses is falling apart. NYCHA doesn’t care. The tenants don’t care. Why aren’t the tenants of Frederick Douglass Houses fed up and mad as hell with the inhumane, cruel, insulting treatment they receive from NYCHA? Would this happen in a building with a different tenant composition?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

NYCHA's Centralized Call Center is a joke

We all know Frederick Douglass Houses has been "experiencing" a disruption of hot water since 2007. I have been complaining to city officials about this problems for about a year. The hot water heater is still not fixed and on Thursday it went off. After a call to Senator Bill Perkin's office an HPT technician called me then came to my apartment. He told me the hot water heater has a "broken coil" and would take several weeks to fix...surprise. In the meantime he raised the temperate on the heater and went away...surprise. Today the hot water went off again...surprised??? The weird thing is that Centralized Call Center made an ill attempt at fixing the hot water...its not hot...but I will take luke warm over ice cold. The Centralized Call Center called me. I wasn't home at the time of the call so I could not verify if the hot water had been restored. But it struck me as weird.

The Centralized Call Center of New York City Housing Authority is the most incompetent agency that NYCHA has...even more than the housing assistants. This is the same call center that has told me in the past that they will not send someone out to fix the hot water because it was 9:oopm and they did not want to pay overtime. To wait for the management office to open in the morning. This was after telling me (on the same day) that the hot water heater was broken and needed a new part. So which was the "true" lie? Neither. After getting upset with the operator I spoke to the supervisor and the crew was dispatched and the hot water was restored.

So why after all the lies is the Centralized Call Center calling me to find out if the hot water was restored? I don't know. I guess I have become a big pain in the you know what. And they are now covering their you know what.

What ever it long as I have hot water....tomorrow I will make more calls.