LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — The city launched a new program to provide thousands of free air conditioning units to vulnerable seniors, particularly those who live in public housing, by the end of June.
City government plans on giving 74,000 free air conditioners to low income seniors, and more than 37,000 have already registered.
But Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said some NYCHA seniors can’t get answers and cut through the red tape.
“We can’t get them to answer the phone or hire vendors who are responsible to the residents,” said Brewer.
With a pandemic and a hot summer ahead, Milagros Estevez said she was excited about the city program for low income seniors like her parents.
Her mom, Melinda Estevez, 85, and her father, Emilio Estevez, 97, live at the Rutgers Houses on the Lower East Side. They desperately need an AC unit and are on a fixed income, but Estevez said she couldn’t get through to get them signed up.
"We are in the summer, and it feels like 100 degrees in my parents' apartment. I’m frustrated and can’t get an answer,” said Estevez.
Here’s how the program works.
Eligible New Yorkers will be identified by the city, and caseworkers conduct direct outreach to help identify those who need the AC units the most.
On their website, they say if you missed a call from the city, you can contact the NYCHA Customer Contact Center for further assistance.
Milagros said she been calling 311 and NYCHA management for over a month; everytime she calls, she said she gets the runaround, no answers, and no AC.
Brewer said the Estevez family is not alone. Her office is getting frequently called with complaints.
Brewer said she's heard a range of problems, from seniors who can’t get through, calls not getting returned, vendors not showing up for appointments for installation, and even complaints that when vendors do come, they are not wearing PPE.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the program is working.
He said 23,200 of the registered seniors live in private homes and 14,000 are NYCHA residents.
Over 18,000 AC units have been installed so far.
“We’re installing new ones at a rate of 1,500 air conditioning units per day. So, it's moving real fast ahead of the big heat that's coming up to make sure our seniors can stay cool,” said de Blasio.
Estevez got a call an hour after PIX11 left . The city installed an air conditioner a
“We're committed to resolving any issues that arise through our dedicated Customer Service Call Center, that is taking over 1,000 calls a day, transferred via 311," said a spokesperson for the mayor. "We are happy to have been able to get this family an air conditioner today."