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Dozens Of Sandy-Damaged Public Schools Still Using Temporary Boilers

By Katie Honan | October 7, 2013 7:01am
 The DOE said they are working with FEMA, but only have plans so far to replace nine.
Temporary Boilers Still At Dozens of NYC Schools
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NEW YORK CITY — Dozens of schools damaged by Hurricane Sandy are still using temporary boilers nearly a year after the storm, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The boilers were placed at 33 city schools damaged by the massive storm nearly a year ago, according to the Department of Education.

In total, 50 schools across four boroughs were “severely” damaged by Sandy with the vast majority in Brooklyn and Queens.

Of those, 33 were fitted with temporary boilers to provide heat once they reopened, which DNAinfo New York observed at P.S 114 in Belle Harbor, Scholars' Academy in Rockaway Park, PS 207 in Howard Beach, The Goldie Maple Academy in Far Rockaway and schools in Coney Island, including P.S 188 and Mark Twain Intermediate School.

“We are determining which boilers are to be repaired and which to be replaced,” DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said. “Currently, we are in design to replace at least nine out of the 33 boilers.”

New FEMA regulations would require that many of the schools either elevate the boilers or move them to higher ground — which would be paid for by federal funds allocated for Hurricane Sandy relief, which was discussed at a City Council hearing last February, according to GothamSchools.

"Hurricane Sandy was an unprecedented and devastating event for our city," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said at the time.

The city spent $175 million on emergency repairs to the schools, but many of the repairs — including the replacement of temporary boilers — would require FEMA reimbursement.

A FEMA spokesperson said the repair or replacement of essential items, like boilers, could be covered through its public assistance grant reimbursement program.

According to the spokesman, the federal agency has so far allocated "more than $16 million to reimburse costs associated with emergency protective measures" at city schools, which would cover any measure that can protect public health and safety, and prevent damage to public and private property.

The city will develop a plan and estimate the cost for each project, and if it's approved, FEMA would release the money to the state to disperse to the School Construction Authority, the spokesman said.

FEMA is aware of three completed boiler inspections, the spokesman said, "and is awaiting official results of these inspections from the city."

The agency is also "currently evaluating temporary facility costs for eligibility for reimbursement," he said.

It was not clear how much replacing the boilers would cost or how much the city is spending on temporary boilers.

An email sent to the School Construction Authority was not returned.

The timeline for repair of the boilers is still unclear, and one politician said the city needs to "step on it" before the winter comes.

"There's no reason why our schools should not be fixed back to the capacity that they were before the storm," said City Councilman Donovan Richards, who represents southern Queens, including Far Rockaway.

Richards also urged the importance of better securing and protecting utility items in case of another storm.

"We need to have things in place that are better protected," he said.

A facilities manager at a school in Far Rockaway, whose name DNAinfo is withholding, said the temporary boiler has been fine, but the lack of a compressor has resulted in heat that's not controlled by a thermostat coming into the building.

The company that’s supplying the boiler has done a “good job” maintaining the boiler, he said, but he preferred the building’s old boiler for controlling the temperature inside the school.

He said he wasn't given a timeline for when the original boiler would be either fixed or replaced.

“I’m sure the money they’re spending on a temporary system, they could have fixed it by now,” he said. “Like everything else, you adjust to it. It’s not the ideal situation, but what are you gonna do?”