One week ago, residents of the Smith Houses were displaced when a fire broke out in an eighth floor apartment at 388 Pearl Street. In the days that followed, people living in the large public housing development have contended with persistent gas outages. 159 apartments are without service.
This morning we’ve received a copy of a letter State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sent to John Rhea, head of the NYC Housing Authority, about the situation.
It reads, in part:
…While I understand that the gas was turned off for safety reasons, the fact that residents routinely endure shut-downs in gas is problematic. I want to commend NYCHA on its response to the Feb. 23 fire and for working with the Department of Buildings and Con Edison to return gas service to residents as soon as possible. At the same time, it is crucial that NYCHA take the necessary steps to make much-needed repairs for the long term. It has become clear that the gas lines must be upgraded or replaced. The fact that service is often lost not just for those apartments directly affected by a fire or another incident but for an entire building indicates that there is a structural problem that must be addressed. The improvements needed at Smith Houses are not cosmetic but fundamental services. This problem has become chronic and it must be addressed as soon as possible.
As Silver’s letter indicates, gas outages at the Smith Houses are nothing new. All of the neighborhood’s elected officials have lobbied NYCHA to deal with the ongoing problems.