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Heating Oil Finally Delivered to East Harlem Building

By Jeff Mays | February 23, 2011 2:17pm | Updated on February 23, 2011 6:41pm

By Jeff Mays

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

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.

HPD's lawyers also have five cases pending against the landlord, including three that are warrants to gain access to the building to make repairs that HPD says the landlords refuse to make. Those cases were postponed to March 10 because the landlords asked for time to secure an attorney.

“We are concerned with the welfare of the tenants and the living conditions they have endured under present ownership. HPD has responded to numerous complaints, written violations for maintenance problems throughout the building, and performed emergency repair work because the owner failed to do it," Bederman said.

Landlord Ramon Santos told DNAinfo that he has been working to repair the boiler and has already repaired in relation to some of the 203 violations but was waiting for HPD to review them. HPD said it has had repeated difficulty gaining access to the building, hence the action seeking warrants to gain access to make repairs.

"We are going to clear all of the violations," Santos said.

Residents, who have joined advocacy group Movement for Justice in El Barrio, say they feel neglected by both the landlord and HPD and are anxious for change.

"I want repairs now because our children are suffering," said building resident Eufemia Mendoza.