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Castle Hill retrofit lauded

Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at the Castle Hill Houses on Wednesday, August 5 to promote an energy-conscious initiative.

Bloomberg presented the Castle Hill Houses as a test case. The 14-building development is set for a $25 million energy-conscious upgrade that will lower carbon dioxide emissions and save the New York City Housing Authority $1.2 million a year. The upgrade is already under way.

NYCHA selected Castle Hill Houses because it uses more energy than other developments. It was built in 1960 and is home to 5,000 residents. When the upgrade is complete in 2010, the Castle Hill Houses will boast eight energy-efficient boilers, 14 new instantaneous water heaters, more than 4,000 energy-efficient florescent fixtures and more than 17,000 energy-efficient light bulbs.

“Castle Hill Houses will serve as the model,” Bloomberg said.

A state-built development, the Castle Hill Houses don’t benefit from federal funding. Utility costs at the development have increased from $4.4 million in 2004 to $7 million in 2008. The upgrade will put money back in taxpayer wallets and will save Castle Hill Houses households $112 a year. It will also generate “green collar” jobs, NYCHA chairman John Rhea said. The city has reserved 30 percent of those jobs for development residents.

“Today is a great day for NYCHA and the Bronx,” Diaz Jr. said. “Castle Hill Houses residents who suffer from asthma and bronchitis will breathe easier.”

The borough president mentioned that buildings are the city’s foremost polluters and asked Bloomberg to back the installation of green roofs on NYCHA developments.

“We should invest the savings back into NYCHA maintenance,” Diaz Jr. said.

On the morning of August 5, NYCHA promised to use more than $200 million of its $423 million stimulus check for energy-conscious upgrades. NYCHA will install 56,000 new energy-efficient refrigerators, Environmental Coordinator Margarita Lopez said.

Castle Hill Houses resident Matthew Mendez earned a spot on the upgrade team. Now a steamfitter, Mendez thanked the mayor. Tenant association president Roxanne Reid praised the work; she and other tenants have formed a “green committee” to promote energy-conscious behavior. Castle Hill Houses resident Elba Saciolo seemed dubious. NYCHA needs to concentrate on maintenance, she said. The development is dirty and its elevators unreliable.

“A dirty building isn’t green,” Saciolo, a resident since 1965, said. “If you can’t keep a building clean, why bother tenants to think green?”

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