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No Relief In Sight For Tenants In ‘Heat-Less’ Home

CBS News
February 9th, 2011

Wednesday is one one frigid day, and overnight it was even worse. About the only way to battle the cold is to turn the heat up at home, but many in apartment buildings don’t control their own heat.

In a rent-controlled building in Bushwick, residents said, the landlord turns the heat off every night at 6:00, forcing them to cope as best they can.

Katiria Nieves sleeps with three quilts. “It’s cold in this crib. At night it’s worse cause it’s like an ice cube in my room,” she said. “It was freezing in here, freezing. Now is when they put heat. They put heat in the morning and at nighttime they don’t put heat.”

Last night, with temperatures dipping into the teens and wind chills even colder than that, she told CBS 2HD’s Kathryn Brown that staying warm was impossible.

Nieves pointed to a hole in her floor that she said not been patched for months, and said she’s forced to use the kitchen stove for heat. It’s a dangerous alternative but something other residents in this building said they do as well.

Another tenant, Gladys Puglla, said she has to boil water in the kitchen at night to heat nearby rooms and seal her windows in plastic to keep the drafts out.

“After 6:00, boom, it shuts down. Boilers not working, boilers on automatic shut off, it will turn on eventually, it never does and look, we didn’t have no heat last night and still there’s no heat,” she said.

“We’re like icicles.  I mean we have to get under my covers.  Three or four covers on top, put a hat on, my socks, and my pants, my jogging pants, and a sweater, and put three or four covers on top,” she said. “I’m angry because I’m getting sick and I haven’t been able to get better.”

Puglla took her story to a City Council hearing that was seeking to increase the penalties for landlord’s who don’t provide heat. Turns out it’s not an isolated case.

Since October, 3-1-1 logged more than 150,000 heat and hot water complaints.

Gladys said her landlord always has an excuse, but public advocates seeking to change the laws said no excuse is a good one.

“It happens because the laws aren’t strong enough and some bad landlords are taking advantage of weak laws and we’re going to stop it,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

Without heat the cold is unbearable, but even those who spent the night toasty and warm had trouble walking out the door Wednesday morning to face brutally-cold temperatures and a biting wind.

“Very cold. I wish I could be home sleeping in bed,” one pedestrian said.

“It’s terrible, real terrible,” said Rudolph Charles of Canarsie.

Several days of warmer temperatures thawed patches of ice into puddles, but the overnight deep chill re-froze them.

“I thought spring was coming. It was going to be warmer and then I think it might be 15 degrees out here. Maybe not that warm but what are you going to do? It’s winter in New York,” said Samantha Barrow of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reached out to the landlord to get his side of the story, but there was no answer and no return call.

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