Evaluating the extent of NYCHA’s response to Hurricane Sandy will improve its response to future storms
City Hall, NY – The City Council today held an oversight hearing to examine the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) emergency planning procedures, response and tenant communication efforts before, during and after Hurricane Sandy.
In her opening statement, Speaker Quinn said, “The damage incurred to the City’s public housing as a result of Sandy was far beyond anything we could have possibly imagined. The Council is greatly concerned that NYCHA was unable to relay up-to-date information to tenants and adequately identify and communicate issues in specific developments in the days and weeks following the storm.”
“We’ve heard too many stories from tenants about the challenges they faced in their homes in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy,” said Public Housing Committee Chair Rosie Mendez. “Today’s hearing is an opportunity for the Council to evaluate NYCHA’s emergency planning to help improve the housing authority’s response and preparations for future storms.”
At today’s hearing, Speaker Quinn and City Council Members raised concerns about the housing authority’s protocols for addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and evaluated its communication and enforcement of mandatory evacuation zones.
Specifically, the Council focused on:
Inadequate Emergency Procedures
Speaker Quinn and Council Members raised concerns about NYCHA’s communication with residents and its enforcement of mandatory evacuation zones.
Council Members also questioned the steps that were taken to help assist residents once the mandatory evacuation order was given.
Delays in Restoration to Heat and Hot Water
NYCHA residents in affected areas suffered prolonged power outages and loss of essential services. Additionally, many residents were stranded in their homes without access to food, water or medicine. These prolonged outages were particularly difficult on older and disabled residents, who were unable to navigate darkened stairwells in high-rise buildings. Had NYCHA arranged for temporary generators and boilers to be in place ahead of time, instead of scrambling to secure, transport and set up equipment after the storm, power could have been restored to residents sooner.
Coordination between NYCHA staff and Volunteers
NYCHA underutilized social infrastructure strategy in its disaster planning. In the weeks following the storm, residents and community groups came together to help tenants. Council Members urged NYCHA to include resident networks and surrounding community areas as part of future relief efforts.
In addition to NYCHA officials, tenant organizations, legal service providers and volunteer organizations provided testimony to the Council on the challenges faced in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy. The Council’s hearings will continue throughout the coming weeks. In total, eleven hearings will be held over the course of seven weeks by more than twenty Council committees.