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City To Spend $200 Million To Upgrade Heating Systems At NYCHA Houses

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city is investing $200 million to replace boilers and upgrade heating systems at 20 public housing developments with the most chronic issues.

The news received a warm welcome from residents.

"The past three years have been terrible. It's been really bad. You can see your breath sometimes," said Kenneth, a tenant at the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side. "I've had to bundle up to go to sleep, wear my long johns and sweaters. It's like sleeping outside."

Kenneth said residents previously filed complaints with 311 but "nothing happened."

"We complained, we tried everything," he said. "They made little attempts but they didn't really do anything."

"This year and the last couple of years have been horrible. We get no hot water, last night there was no heat," said Olivia Day, a longtime resident of the Baruch Houses.

"It's about time because it gets really cold. We need those boilers real quick," a resident named Edna said. "I have a corner apartment close to the water so when it's windy and it's cold that corner room, you can't be in there."

De Blasio said the work will be done over the next four years and that the upgrades will help the New York City Housing Authority save $5 million a year in energy costs.

The mayor's office also points out the investment is double what the federal government has given NYCHA since 2014.

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. says it's a good start, but the mayor's announcement is cold comfort for public housing tenants who need the heat immediately.

"There's still no guarantee that these residents are going to get new boilers by the end of this winter or next winter for that matter," he said. "The only way to do so is to accelerate the procurement process and the only way to do that is to declare a state of emergency."

The mayor's office responded to Diaz's comment Wednesday night.

"Declaring a state of emergency won't help NYCHA tenants get a new boiler. This mayor is putting real resources to attack these problems, including $13 million to address heating emergencies this winter and $200 million to address long-term boiler issues," a spokesperson told CBS2 in a statement.

Earlier this month, the mayor committed $13 million to hire 57 maintenance workers and buy three mobile boilers for heating emergencies. But Diaz said complaints from his NYCHA residents still come daily.

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