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Heat Fails In 2 Boroughs, But NYCHA Quickly Makes Repairs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- More than 6,000 public housing residents in Brooklyn and the Bronx were without heat for at least part of the day Monday, but, in a sharp departure from the past, the New York City Housing Authority had quick response teams to make the repairs.

There were a number of unhappy campers at the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses in the Soundview section of the Bronx. The heat went off early in the morning as the thermometer plunged.

"It's kind of bad, you know? It's kind of bad that they're not putting it on," resident Shaquan Burley told CBS2's Marcia Kramer.

"No hot water. No heat. What else is new?" resident Alexander Casanova added.

Actually, there's a lot that's new.

The heat went off at 8 a.m., but by 1 p.m. NYCHA was ready to turn it back on, which is a big improvement from 2018.

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The new early warning system used by the New York City Housing Authority. (Photo: CBS2)

Last year, officials said, it took much, much longer to fix broken boilers and on a frigid day like Monday there would be dozens and dozens of complexes shivering in the cold. NYCHA's new situation room listed just four places with problems -- two with heat complaints, two had no hot water.

"Last year, we were restoring heat within 36 hours at this time as compared to this year, 10 hours," NYCHA CEO and General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo said.

What's the secret?

"The secret is that we're doing better with our staffing and we decided to hire up at different staffing levels," Mustaciuolo said.

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As he gave CBS2's Kramer a tour of NYCHA's customer complaint center, Mustaciuolo explained that the agency now has a heating specialist working at nights and on weekends, instead of just weekdays and there are all kinds of new alert systems, including a board that has a flashing red light system to alert officials when something is going wrong.

"It's an early warning system for us," Mustaciuolo said.

Also new, complaint takers are now trained to ask questions about things that could affect the nature of the complaint and the required repair.

And in the year since Mustaciuolo took over as general manager, there's something else new. He's totally hands on. He personally went to the Sonia Sotomayor Houses on Monday to make sure the boilers were fixed.

NYCHA also tried another new tactic Monday. It opened 12 warming centers across the city so that residents with heat problems would have a place to go while the repairs were being made.

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