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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    New London Housing Authority to address hot water issues at high-rises

    New London — Jeanette Parker said she is tired of taking cold showers. She’s tired of boiling water to wash her kids or waking them at the crack of dawn to try and beat some of the more than 300 other people at Thames River Apartments vying for the last hot shower before the water turns tepid or cold.

    Parker, also a member of the Housing Authority board of commissioners, was among several people to bring concerns to the City Council on Monday in a public plea for the 124 families still waiting for something to be done about this and any number of complaints about conditions at the federally subsidized complex on Crystal Avenue.

    “I’m ready to move. It isn’t fair to us over here,” Parker said. “We shouldn’t have to go only four hours a day with hot water. It doesn’t make any sense.”

    Housing Authority Executive Director Roy Boling, a month into the job, has proposed a solution and will be asking the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for critical needs financing for the project. He said he is exploring other options should HUD be a dead end but said he wants to move quickly.

    For about $200,000, he said, there is a potential remedy for both the hot water and heating issues. Residents of the high-rises have complained for years about the excessive heat during winter months.

    “Right now the way the boiler kicks on and stays on in the heating season, it gets so hot in the apartments that residents have to open the windows. Obviously money is flying out the window,” Boling said.

    The fix for the water will include the installation of two 200-gallon water tanks and up to five high-efficiency boilers to heat the water. Boling said he thinks that annual energy savings alone from the project will help pay for the work.

    “I don’t know how long it’s been going on, but it’s a quality-of-life issue,” Boling said. “Do you want to wake up and go to work or send your kids to school and have to take cold showers? Try doing that every day. As part of the housing experience, you should be able to turn on the hot water faucet and get hot water.”

    Mayor Michael Passero said he has called in Ledge Light Health District in the past to examine the problem, but the health district found no formal health violations related to water.

    “That doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem there,” Passero said. “Everybody knows people should not be living under those conditions in 2017.”

    It’s the reason, Passero said, his administration has worked to help fast-track the application to HUD for a demolition disposition and the hope to abandon the property and obtain housing vouchers for all of the families to move elsewhere.

    “We are working really, really hard to get those three high-rises closed down,” Passero said. “What we need is the vouchers.”

    Meanwhile, Passero said HUD regulations are working against the Housing Authority because of a requirement to continue filling the vacant apartments.

    The Housing Authority continues to work with development partners Peabody Properties and Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative, who have plans to build an affordable-housing complex as a replacement for the high-rises. It was Peabody Properties who offered to assess the hot water situation and propose the solution, Boling said.

    The work continues even as attorney Robert Reardon renewed his warnings this week about a return to litigation over the Housing Authority’s violation of a court-stipulated agreement that ended a decade-old class-action lawsuit.

    Reardon spoke at Monday’s City Council meeting.

    Housing Authority board Chairwoman Betsy Gibson said Reardon is better served by focusing his efforts on HUD and not the authority. Gibson on Monday called on city councilors and local civic organizations to push the local congressional delegation for federal money.

    Passero said Reardon’s threats are misguided, called his appearance at Monday’s council meeting “grandstanding” and said his administration has worked hard for the residents.

    “I am not concerned about that ineffective lawsuit that has not done anything to relieve the suffering of the residents stuck in those high-rises. I’m not going to be bullied by Bob Reardon. That’s not going to accomplish anything,” Passero said. “I need to keep focused on the goal here. Everyone seems to be paying lip service to the residents. They’re not doing anything constructive towards solving the problem.”

    g.smith@theday.com

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