NYCHA tenant leaders push for green fixes like solar power

Rep. Carolyn Maloney joined a dozen tenant leaders from across New York City at the Astoria houses Friday in an effort to improve the New York City Housing Authority and make its buildings more energy efficient. 

Maloney introduced the Public Housing Solar Equity Act.  The bill would ensure that when a public housing authority such as NYCHA sells or leases assets to private companies for the installation of solar panels, residents’ needs come first by ensuring the sale or lease actually benefits those residents.

Residents, businesses in Black communities struggle to afford transition to green energy technologies

Maloney’s bill also calls for increased transparency of solar energy projects and their sales or leases.

“If you are going to use NYCHA property, the benefits of it has to go back to NYCHA,” she said. “It should go to residents first. Before any place else. That’s what this bill does.”

Maloney also highlighted the need for the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, investing up to $172 billion over 10 years to improve NYCHA, she said. 

LaKeesha Yaylor lives at the Holmes Towers in Yorkville and helped draft the Green New Deal. Taylor has been advocating for her neighbors for years, fighting for her building’s hot water service to be restored and demanding broken elevators be fixed. 

“With the Green New Deal, when the window is fixed, it’s sealed. When the boiler is fixed, it’s new green energy that will last,” said Taylor, the co-founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition.  

A NYCHA spokesperson pushed back.

“NYCHA’s Community Solar Program was designed to bring renewable energy assets to NYCHA buildings while providing the maximum possible benefit NYCHA residents. The NYCHA Community Solar Program is a national model to showcase how investment in solar power can uplift public housing residents. Congresswoman Maloney’s legislation wrongly assumes that residents are paying their own electric bills – over 95% of NYCHA residents are in master-metered developments where utilities are paid by NYCHA, not the resident. We proceeded with a Community Shared Solar model with strong requirements for training, employment, commitments on subscriptions for low and moderate income families, and lease revenue that is dedicated to the host development. NYCHA is constantly reassessing the approach to installing solar on NYCHA buildings to ensure the maximum benefit for residents is achieved.”

Residents, businesses in Black communities struggle to afford transition to green energy technologies

Tenant presidents like 86-year-old Claudia Coger said its time not just to fix public housing, but improve living conditions in an environmentally-friendly way. 

“It has to be fixed.  I’ll be fighting for this till my last breath,” said Coger. 

Maloney said the political power of public housing residents is strong, and with the Biden administration in power, change is coming — and it will be green.

Maloney said the political push to pass these bills will continue in Washington D.C.