Tenants in one small Housing Authority complex in the South Bronx have suffered for years — even decades — without reliable heat, turning their homes into iceboxes in the winter, residents told The Post on Wednesday.
It is a small example of the heating problems that plagued New York’s public housing for years, before exploding into view last winter.
The embattled authority claims it has made real progress in battling outages this winter, but residents of the four small buildings that make up South Bronx Area Site 402 on Cauldwell Avenue say they haven’t seen a difference.
These buildings have long had a history of heating trouble, which was first exposed by The New York Times Wednesday.
NYCHA told The Post it has made a substantial investment in the complex’s heating system in recent years.
“I’ve been living here for twenty-eight years and I don’t think we’ve ever had heat for 20 of them,” mother-of-two Zellenyt Moran, 46, said. “They always say they’re going to come and fix it, but they never do. They never do. We never have any heat.”
Instead, the Building 3 resident said her family is forced to bundle up, cover their windows in plastic and stick next to a space heater that struggles to keep one of the three bedrooms in the apartment warm.
It’s so bad, she said, they’re forced to carry the space heater into the bathroom to keep the space heater warm while showering, she said.
“These things are dangerous,” she added. “They could cause a fire.”
Next door, in Building 4, the horror repeats.
Noelia Bran, a 31-year-old single mom to three young sons, depends on space heaters and her oven to provide heat.
She told the Post she has lived in this shivering misery for three years.
“I have four heaters going. Or I’ll boil a pot of water in the kitchen so the steam comes off,” Bran said.
She said she filed a repair ticket a week for two years before giving up.
“One time, I spoke to my housing assistant and he started to laugh and said ‘Maybe that’s because I don’t pay a lot of rent.’”
But the authority also said the problems were largely limited to just Building 4, a contention disputed by residents who told the Post the problems were widespread across all four buildings.
“The picture that the residents paint is unacceptable,” NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo told The Post. “We have made a lot of progress with dealing with our historical heating issues and we are trying to address systemic problems, not just put a band-aid on things.”
A Post reporter saw a contracted NYCHA repair crew arrive as he was interviewing residents on Wednesday evening. The workers said they were fixing a gas line.
Earlier this month, the Post exposed the terrible conditions residents endured over Thanksgiving at Harlem’s massive Grant Houses complex in a front-page story that lead the regional HUD administrator, Lynne Patton, to demand action.
But outages in much smaller developments, like this one, generate much less attention.
The Housing Authority’s leadership has insisted that it is doing a far better job of tackling outages than last winter, when more than three-quarters of residents were hit by heating plant failures.
Mustaciuolo told NYCHA’s board at its meeting Wednesday that so far this winter, NYCHA has repaired outages in less than half the time of 2017 on average. And the authority’s new budget calls for spending $1 billion on new boilers over the next five years.
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