By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development has added fuel to the boiler of an East Harlem tenement where residents say they have not had heat or hot water in two weeks.
"The only thing wrong with the boiler this time was that the owner did not put any fuel [in]. We ordered a fuel drop and the problem was solved," said HPD spokesman Eric Bederman.
The move came after residents at 221 East 115th St., just off of Madison Avenue, took to the street in front of their building to protest terrible living conditions yesterday, DNAinfo reported. The building currently has 203 open violations from HPD, including some for lead paint, bedbugs and a lack of heat and hot water.
Residents have filed a suit against landlords Ramon Santos, Antonio de Los Santos and HPD, seeking to get the conditions remedied.
East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said she applied pressure to HPD to get them to deliver heating oil after learning of conditions at the building yesterday. Now, the goal is to work with the agency to help fix the problems at the tenement.
"Maybe these are people who can't take care of a building," Mark-Viverito said. "There are a lot of open violations but we will work with HPD in what will be an ongoing process."
Some residents at the building said they paid upwards of $2,300 per month in rent but still have to wear winter coats and hats inside their apartments and deal with children who become sick because of the constant cold. Residents said they had to boil water just to bathe.
"The kids come out of the bathroom shivering," said Judelia Nicolas, 25, who has lived at the building for seven years and pays $2,107 per month for her four bedroom apartment. "We pay so much money and should be provided with heat and hot water."
Bederman said that HPD has taken extensive steps to make repairs at the troubled building. In February, HPD issued 61 violations at the building. The last eight violations ,on February 17, were for lead paint and a lack of heat and hot water. HPD officials said they had already spent $5,000 on repairs at the building since 2007, including last night's fuel drop.
"I want repairs now because our children are suffering," said building resident Eufemia Mendoza.