Polar cold wave collapsed several heating systems in NYCHA complexes: “We almost froze to death”

For thousands of New York City Public Housing (NYCHA) residents, Christmas was an icy “nightmare”: No heating, and worst, no hot water. In the days to come, even if the temperatures are going to rise slightly, this same experience could still be expansive.

The acute interruptions of these services continued this Wednesday, when the Catholic tradition commemorates the “Day of the Innocents”: To 2,638 residents of different complexes in Brooklyn, El Bronx, Queens y Manhattanonly in some cases, they were notified that they would not have heating services.

Based on the city agency’s own balance sheets, at least five buildings with almost 1,500 tenants had to deal with unplanned outages of heat, hot water, or both, starting Tuesday morning. This number continues to rise.

According to NYCHA’s website, eight other buildings had their heat or hot water restored in the last 48 hours, following outages that They were a “cold” surprise for its residents on Christmas Eve.

This type of cuts that put residents in dangerous situations, even more so when in many cases they decide to use schemes to “warm up”, such as the kitchen stoves themselves, are a recurring problem. for decades in these housing units.

In parallel, they sharpened electrical failures, elevators were paralyzed and there were even news of floods due to broken pipes.

“everything got worse”

But an analysis published in November by NYCHA Monitor proves that “everything got worse” during the cold months of 2021-2022.

In summary, there were 564 unplanned heat outages during that period, an increase of 100 cuts compared to the previous cold season.

“The problem is that people begin to use these low-quality appliances to heat themselves and that is where fires and tragedies come from. I know of neighbors who turn on the oven and open a little to warm up. That’s headless!”, he commented to her. El Diario the Puerto Rican Giselle Martínezresident of the complex Ocean Hill not Brooklyn.

At 2070 Clinton Avenue in The Bronx, hundreds of elderly people are having a very bad time since the cold front entered NY. (Photo: Courtesy Caroll Andrewsk – NYC Ombudsman)

“We are going to find everyone frozen”

on the outskirts of Twin Parks East, in the Bronx, the Ombudsman Jumaane Williams, put his finger on just one line of the mountain of calamities suffered by residents of public housing in the Big Apple.

In this specific case, the residents detailed that in the last five years they have had long interruptions in the operation of the heating boilers. On this “Christmas Eve” when the temperatures dropped dramatically, some almost end up ‘crimped’.

“The same cold that we have outside here, this community suffers worse there in its apartments. But this is nothing new. It’s almost a crime. We close this year once again demanding financial aid from the federal government to overcome this humanitarian crisis,” Williams remarked.

In the complex located in the 2070 Clinton Avenuefrom La Salsa County, some of its residents, 80% of whom are elderly, report situations of extreme discomfort in recent days.

Such was the testimony of the Dominican resident Susana Gonzálezwho externalized all his “impotence” after years of complaints that they have not managed, not even by an inch, to modernize the heating system.

“When we moved here several years ago, they jokingly told us that the building was called ‘last breath’, because most of the people are elderly and they were dying. But now we understand why. If this does not change, they are going to find us all frozen one day,” Susana pointed out.

Despite the fact that more than 70 families are affected, very few responded to the Ombudsman’s call to present their complaints to the media. Apathy is right.

“You already tell your neighbors to report. And they don’t want to because they are tired of being ignored for years. But I don’t get tired. This time someone has to listen Or they’re going to find us all dead.”finished off the islander.

Hundreds of families in public housing complexes tried to seal their homes to block out the cold air. (Photo: Caroll Andrewsk – NYC Ombudsman)

“I don’t want to move from my house”

The lack of a stable system that raises the temperature in these housing units entails other costs for the residents. For example, Puerto Rican Luz Espinozaalso a Twins Parks resident, explains that he has had to invest in two electric heaters.

“Perfect, I temporarily solve the problem, but at the same time the electric bill goes up. It’s not fair!” he remarked.

Also the quisqueyana Rosa Matías He described that he installed three electric heaters, even so, he has hardly slept for a week, because his room is “like a fridge”.

“Every time I turn on those devices, then the electricity fails. I have three coats on me to get me through this. Last night people from the City came to lodge me in another place. But I don’t want to move from my house. Let them come and fix this,” Rosa cried.

Calls to 311 from the elderly who were almost “freezing” in this complex have skyrocketed in the last few hours. Indeed, many of the residents received the option of being relocated to warmer sites, but they were mostly opposed, NYCHA spokespersons confirm.

“It is not just a winter crisis”

Given the accumulation of these complaints, which were raised as never before, due to the emergency caused by the polar cold front that overwhelmed New York, the Ombudsman reasoned that it is not a winter crisis, but a calamity generated after decades of “divestment”.

The official who just last week pondered again that NYCHA “is the worst landlord” in New York City and last summer presented a detailed report on the disastrous inventory of structural and service failures of this public housing system, urged several times to the federal government to look back at what label as a “tragedy”.

“We know that with dying buildings, with outdated plumbing and heating systems, that have to be completely renovated. It is not a question in this case of repair or maintenance. It’s about rebuilding a whole system and managing it in a different way,” she concluded.

In the Fort Independence Houses Complex in The Bronx since October 2021 there have been recurring failures of all services. (Photo: F. Martinez)

Sad Christmas…

Also in the Bronx, since last holiday weekend, the residents of Fort Independence Houses broke the emergency numbers before the low temperatures and lack of heating and hot water.

Specifically, the 700 tenants of the Kingsbridge Heights building they are also among the thousands of public housing residents where the boilers have collapsed.

With the difference, that this complex has been on the verge of this problem intermittently since October last year. This dangerous situation forced the City to set up two buses outside the building on Monday night, to offer icy residents a place to warm up.

For their part, the residents of Lincoln Houses en Harlem They had a much worse time during the Holidays, when a pipe burst and flooded part of the buildings. At par They did not have any service due to the contingency.

In addition, starting this Monday, 3,000 people in Astoria Houses, en Queensare facing intermittent heat and hot water failures, after the system collapsed.

It was confirmed that until this Wednesday at noon, 77 residents of a tower in the Ocean Hill complex in Brooklyn They also did not have systems to deal with low temperatures. No hot water through its pipes.

“Some outages have been precisely scheduled to guarantee service during these dates and others suffered sudden breakdowns. In general, these are very old systems. Now, like never before, there is a transparency system that allows us to see our progress online. Residents know they have new resources to report and follow up on failures,” said a NYCHA spokesperson.

NYCHA warns: watch out for heaters!

  • The New York City Public Housing Authority (NYCHA) through his social networks he has insisted in this cold season: “keep yourself, your family and your neighbors safe with these important reminders”.
  • If you use indoor heaters, use only electric space heaters that are marked Underwriters Laboratories (UL) (showing that the product has been safety tested).
  • Do not use heaters kerosene or propanewhich are dangerous and illegal for indoor use in New York City.
  • Heaters must be at least 3 feet from anything that can burn and should always be turned off when leaving a room or going to sleep.
  • Never leave children alone in a room when a space heater is on. Space heaters are temporary heating devices and should only be used for a limited time each day.
  • Never use an extension cord with a space heater. Space heaters must be plugged directly into an electrical outlet.
  • Never use a portable heater with a frayed or damaged cordnot even for a short period.
  • Turn off the space heater if the wire gets hot.
  • Place the heater on the floor and never on a countertop or piece of furniture.
  • Young children should be kept away from any heater or appliance that has hot surfaces that can cause burns.
  • Call 911 for emergencies. Call to CCC (718-707-7771) of use MyNYCHA (on.nyc.gov/mynycha) to request repairs/maintenance. Sign up to receive emergency notifications from the City by visiting https://on.nyc.gov/314IG3D or by calling 311.

A look at NYCHA as it closes in 2022:

  • 535,686 New Yorkers residing in public housing and Section 8 at the end of this year in NYC, the largest in the entire country.
  • 88% of families residing in the public housing system are African American or Hispanic.
  • $25,000 is the median gross income of NYCHA families while the median household income in New York City is $67,046.
  • $40 billion requires this municipal agency to address its urgent capital needs, but they will not be enough to “raise” the minimum services.
  • $22 billion is assigned to the municipal government for the preservation or creation of affordable housing in its budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023, but according to the Ombudsman’s report, “NYCHA will only get $500 million.

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