MORRIS HEIGHTS, Bronx - The latest arctic blast of cold weather has taken its toll on boilers in New York City Housing Authority buildings. A number of buildings are said to have heat issues, and NYCHA is working around the clock to restore service.
"If you stand by that window, all you feel is cold, freezing cold," said Carol Miles, who lives in a seniors-only building in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx.
Bundled up in a down coat and layers of clothing, she says the heat is barely on but not enough to keep her warm. She has osteoporosis.
"And the cold doesn't help it, not a bit," she said. "It's terrible...Yes, they have to jack (the heat) up."
NYCHA manage 176,000 apartments in 2,200 buildings.
"We are looking to put additional resources into what is clearly a crisis right now, and we are responding as fast as we possibly can," NYCHA General Manager Michael Kelly said.
He says the demand for heat repair is greater than before, and that it takes five hours to restore service when a boiler goes out. On average, it would normally take two hours.
"Half of our boilers are 50 years old," he said. "The analogy is like driving a car with over 200,000 miles on it. So they constantly break down, and our responsibility is to constantly respond to that."
In the past two weeks the Public Advocate's Office has received 40 heat complaints from at least 11 complexes in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
"NYCHA must not only work to ensure these buildings have heat immediately, but open heating centers to provide temporary refuge for residents," Public Advocate Letitia James said.
Several tenants at the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses in Rosedale fired up ovens, stovetops and space heaters when the heat stopped working right around Christmas.
Renee Abdeen, 52, was bundled up waiting for heat to return.
"We use the oven for heat," she said. "I have a portable heater in my bedroom, which I'm afraid of it because I am legally blind. I'm afraid I might bump into it or burn myself."
Most troubling though is when residents use open-flame stoves and ovens for heat creating another element of danger.
"They should not do things like additional space heaters that tax the electrical system, that can cause fires or other things that can jeopardize their family and the entire building during the crisis," Kelly said.
But for many residents simply trying to keep warm, fast answers are all that matter.
"It's not fair for us to be here taking the cold and freezing ourselves, instead of getting service corrected from housing," tenant Carlos Gonzalez-Perez said.