Residents Left Cold as Baruch Houses Boiler Belches Steam Not Heat


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Jul 09, 2023

Residents Left Cold as Baruch Houses Boiler Belches Steam Not Heat

Baruch Houses resident Jeanette Chapel cautions residents about steam emanating

Baruch Houses resident Jeanette Chapel cautions residents about steam emanating from the boiler room, Dec. 14, 2022.

Stephon Johnson/THE CITY

The main entrance of 95 Baruch Drive is so foggy that it's hard to see — and it's not much warmer inside than outside.

Some residents of the 13-floor, roughly 130-unit New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) building on the Lower East Side — one of over a dozen buildings that make up Baruch Houses — take off their glasses when they enter, thanks to a malfunctioning first-floor boiler located right next to the mailroom. Tenants have been putting in repair tickets about the problem since September.

Keeping the main door open clears the steam, but makes the building colder in the process — not to mention less secure.

"They do that every year. I’ve been going through this for the last couple of years with them," frustrated tenant Jeanette Chapel, 49, who's lived on the third floor with her sons Devonte and Senjaya for six years, told THE CITY on Wednesday.

"When I wake up this morning, here we go again — no hot water. No heat, the apartment is freezing again. So I was just about to call them and find out what the heck is going on. The boiler downstairs is a mess."

Asked about the situation at 95 Baruch Drive, a spokesperson for the housing authority, Rochel Leah Goldblatt, said, "NYCHA has confirmed there is heat, and is working with the residents on any other necessary repairs, and will continue to monitor the situation at this development.

"NYCHA is reviewing the other repair needs in the apartment and building and will work to sequence all the necessary skilled trades work," Goldblatt said.

But when THE CITY visited tenants on Wednesday, they reported that whatever heat was being produced wasn't reaching their apartments. Chapel said on Friday that the heat had finally come back that morning, but the hot water gave out, which she learned of when her son tried to take a shower.

NYCHA officials recently told a federal monitor that a pandemic-induced shortfall in rent had left the housing authority hundreds of millions of dollars in the red, affecting its ability to make repairs.

Asked about the building's boiler issues, Community Board 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer directed THE CITY to area City Councilmember Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), whose office didn't respond to several requests for comment. Neither did City Hall.

Walking up the building's stairs, THE CITY observed huge holes in the walls that, according to residents, get filled with trash and eventually plastered over with the trash still inside — only to be knocked open again eventually.

Residents say holes in walls and ceilings are the usual in their building.

Stephon Johnson/THE CITY

Ellen Rocco, 64, has lived in the same third-floor apartment at 95 Baruch Drive for her entire life, ever since the building opened in 1959. The radiator pole in her bathroom was cool to the touch when THE CITY visited on Wednesday. Rocco described having a recurring issue with a leak in her ceiling for over 20 years, back when "my mother was alive."

She went on: "Once a week, they come because there's a leak again…the plasterer usually comes first…then a long time later, the plumber comes. ‘Oh yeah, there's a leak up there.’ I know this. ‘OK, we’ll check it out. Oh, there's no leak upstairs. There's no leak anywhere.’"

Rocco, who has sciatica, arthritis, herniated discs and damaged nerves, said workers would eventually plaster and paint over the area only for the same issue to recur annually.

"If I put in tickets for things, they’re closed. Why were they closed? They’d say, ‘you closed it’" even though she had not, said Rocco.

"It used to be so nice," she said. "So clean. If you even dropped anything on the ground, you get a ticket. So clean, so beautiful."

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