By Molly Crane-Newman and Leonard Greene
Jan 21, 2019
A New York City Housing Authority coat drive launched Monday might help some of its tenants, who bundled up in their freezing apartments on the coldest day of the year.
With temperatures struggling to get out of the single digits, thousands of NYCHA residents in the Bronx and across the city were without heat or hot water, forced to use makeshift -- and dangerous -- methods to stay warm.
At the Sedgwick Houses in the Bronx, Carol Miles, 83, kept her stove on all day to keep her fingers from getting numb.
“See the ice over there?” Miles said, pointing to icicles that have begun to form inside the apartment. “The wind last night, I’m telling you — these windows, I thought they were going to come out. The windows are no good. Period.”
Miles, who suffers from osteoporosis-arthritis, noted that even when the heat works, it barely makes a difference. She said the windows are old, and a constant draft keeps the apartment feeling like a meat storage locker.
“My body can’t take the cold anymore. Last night, I was up all night. I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “I walk around with my coat on.”
Her son, Christopher, who lives in the frigid apartment with her, said NYCHA has been unresponsive.
“We’ve been complaining for over a year,” said Christopher, 54. “We’ve had the stove on all day today. I woke up early today — I woke up because it’s freezing.
Miles said calls to the building’s property manager have gone unanswered.
“A lot of times, when there’s a three- or four-day weekend like this, we get no hot water. Or no heat,” he said.
By several estimates — including one from the Legal Aid Society of New York — 5,000 to 6,000 NYCHA residents suffered heat problems across the city. They included residents of Brooklyn’s Bushwick Houses, where an electrical problem knocked out a heating system.
At NYCHA’s Sonia Sotomayor Houses in the Bronx, residents struggled to stay warm.
“It’s cold. My room is cold right now. My feet are cold,” said Rosa Garcia, 52, who has lived in the Soundview complex for more than 30 years.
“I’m just covering myself. I try to cover myself. That’s the only thing I can do. I don’t even turn on my stove, I don’t like that. The heat, every now and then, it comes and goes. NYCHA should be providing heat like they’re supposed to.”
A NYCHA spokesman said a heating plant in the Sotomayor houses experienced low pressure, causing heat problems in many, but not all of the homes. The agency also patted itself on the back for faster response times, saying outages have been restored within an average of 10 hours.
Last year similar outages took up to 36 hours to restore, a spokesman said.
Critics say the improved speeds are unimpressive.
“NYC has the resources to make emergency repairs and fix heating issues for its residents — yet NYCHA housing remain a disaster,” tweeted Jared Rich, a candidate for Public Advocate. “NYCHA must be policed as if it were a private owner.”
Meanwhile, as tenants froze, NYCHA officials were also taking pride in a coat drive.
“At our Bronx River warming center, we also have a coat drive today” the agency tweeted. “Thank you to those giving back to those who may need a warm coat during the winter time!”