Bill aims to increase heat in NYC apartment buildings following deadly Bronx fire

BySonia Rincon via WABC logo
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Bill aims to increase heat in NYC apartment buildings to prevent fires
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An effort is underway to require New York City apartment building landlords to turn up the heat during the coldest months of the year. Sonia Rincon has the full story.

TREMONT, Bronx (WABC) -- An effort is underway to require New York City apartment building landlords to turn up the heat during the coldest months of the year to help prevent devastating fires.

The deadly fire back in January that killed 17 people in the Bronx, started with a space heater.

A new bill in the council is aimed at eliminating the need for space heaters that are blamed in at least nine fires in the city so far this year.

The council member behind it says she's heard from residents all over the city, who are at the mercy of their landlords with inadequate and insufficient heat.

"For years and for generations they've had to use their ovens and their stoves and not just space heaters to keep warm," Brooklyn councilmember Crystal Hudson said.

Her bill would raise the minimum requirements for landlords from 68 to 70 degrees, and in the overnight hours from 62 to 66 degrees.

The Rent Stabilization Association which represents thousands of city landlords says:

"Any mandated increase in minimum heating temperatures would contradict Local Law 97 and the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions in New York City."

But Hudson says asking for a little more heat doesn't mean buildings shouldn't be using energy more efficiently or sustainably.

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"I am committed to ensuring that we get to 100% renewable energy," Hudson said.

The weather on Monday was a lot like that bitterly cold January day when the fire started in the Bronx, and one resident of the building told Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon there has been enough heat since the tragedy, but others in nearby buildings say they could use more heat on a day like this.

"You have to be bundled up inside the house right now. That's how cold it is," Bronx resident Tyrone Carter said.

311 gets regular heat complaints from Elizabeth Fermin, who says her landlord doesn't provide the current minimum, and the heat only seems to be adequate when the inspectors show up.

"I said why you guys don't come, surprise, like in the afternoon or the night so you could see how we are in the building, freezing, everybody," Fermin said.

"Of course, we have to do much more to enforce our heating laws," Bronx council member Oswald Feliz said.

The council member who represents this district says there are bills in the works for that too, both from the state and federal government. But this bill is an important piece.

"Even two additional degrees of heat will save lives and will prevent tragedies like the one that we saw that ugly Sunday morning in the Bronx," Feliz said.

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