Patterson Houses residents left in the cold

Patterson Houses tenant president Pat Simpson, pointing, leads a rally demanding that NYCHA fix the heating for its residents. Photo: Joe Hirsch

NYCHA is improperly running its mobile boilers, say residents

Baby it’s cold outside. Try telling that to the residents of Patterson Houses, for whom it’s just as cold inside.

Although three mobile boilers have been stationed on Mott Haven streets near the Housing Authority complex to substitute for the non-working boiler in Patterson’s basement, residents say there’s still no heat.

Some three dozen residents from Patterson and other local NYCHA buildings joined up in front of the complex’s management office on E. 143rd Street on Nov. 14 to remind city officials that many have no heat and others are without hot water. Others have soldiered on despite the lack of working elevators and other basic amenities.

“This is something we go through every winter,” said Clarissa Alayeto, who grew up at Patterson Houses and whose 92-year-old grandmother still lives in the complex.

Another resident said that when her apartment starts to freeze, she goes outdoors.

“I feel sometimes that it’s colder in the apartment than outside,” said Yvette Candelaria, adding that hot water is a rarity too.

Johanna Santos of 325 E. 143rd Street said years of registering complaints have led to no action on the part of the city.

“You’re building all this housing around us and we don’t get anything,” she said. “Are we roaches? You’re not doing anything in the projects. The mayor, the borough president, nobody’s doing anything. I’m paying rent for this.” When she has gone into the main office to ask for help, she’s been told, “we’re working on it.”

Patterson Houses’ tenant president Pat Simpson said that her complaints on behalf of the complex’s 25 buildings and 1,700 units routinely fall on deaf ears.

A mobile boiler on E. 143rd Street. Photo: Joe Hirsch

“When will we get the boilers?” she said, pointing out that NYCHA has promised residents relief for years. “We get heat for a ½ hour. There’s no sense in giving us these trucks if you don’t know how to operate them.”

Former City Council candidate Amanda Septimo, volunteering on behalf of the residents, said that it’s past time that NYCHA should serve its tenants.

“We know NYCHA doesn’t have as much money as they need,” but that’s not justification for ignoring urgent repairs, she said.

Residents worry that disaster may be on their doorstep unless heat is restored quickly. Many keep their ovens on or use space heaters overnight for warmth.

“I sleep with the oven on,” said Shanette Mason, but even so, “two weeks ago when it was 70 degrees, they gave us heat.” Mason noted that while NYCHA residents lack basic services, developers who are building everywhere in the neighborhood are prospering. “They’re building hotels down there. The heck with those hotels.”

The president of NYCHA’s South Bronx Council of (tenant) Presidents, Danny Barber, is skeptical that finances are the real reason that residents have been let down yet again.

“I believe NYCHA is aware of the severity of the issue, but doesn’t have the qualified individuals to handle the pressures because of the bureaucracy, micromanagement and severe cuts coming from the chief financial officer,” said Barber. Several lines in Jackson Houses, where he is a lifetime resident, are without heating.

NYCHA did not respond to requests for comment.

The tenant representative for Mill Brook Houses in Port Morris, Princella Jamerson, said that although new boilers have been installed there, pipes are so old and corroded that many tenants are without heat anyway, leaving space heaters and ovens as the only option. In one Mill Brook apartment, a fire broke out the night before the rally.

For Edwin Rios, 35, even basic plumbing is a problem. Rios sometimes stays with his mother at 300 E. 143rd Street. When he woke up one morning in November, a toilet overflow had  flooded the apartment.

“We keep filling the toilet with buckets of water,” he said, adding that NYCHA maintenance workers often lie to avoid performing repairs. “They left a ticket that they knocked on the door. I was five feet away from the door. Nobody knocked.”

In lieu of repairs being made, he said, he regularly uses a plunger to unclog his mother’s toilet. “I keep a bucket filled.”

One Patterson Houses resident said that although she has no heat, she had come to the rally to demand attention to a different matter. Oraya Evans said that while maintenance workers were painting her kitchen, they blew out her refrigerator by painting over an electric socket, causing her to throw out all of her food.

“Who’s going to feed my kids?” she said. When she went to Patterson’s management office to complain about the refrigerator, she found that the office was toasty warm. She told the management office, “I’m going to bring a pillow and a sheet and sleep here.”

On Nov. 20 Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced that he was forming a Bronx Public Housing Task Force, to address safety and quality of life issues facing NYCHA tenants. 
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