By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — After she stood outside her East Harlem building last week banging on pots and pans to protest the lack of heat and hot water, Silvia Ramirez, 24, was happy when a truck sent by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development delivered heating oil for the boiler.
"We were hoping this would solve the problem," she said
But a few hours later, her water was cold again.
"I still had to boil water to heat the apartment and bathe. I feel very angry and upset that no one is helping us," she added.
Apparently, the boiler broke down over the weekend.
HPD issued a violation for the faulty boiler on Saturday. When a department inspector returned Monday, they couldn't access the boiler room. But the inspector did check one apartment and found it did have hot water.
The landlord was not required to provide heat Monday afternoon as the temperature was above 55 degrees.
Residents at 21 East 115th St. said the latest problems indicative of the runaround they faced and that they had been dealing with terrible living conditions at the building for several years. They criticized the HPD, the landlord and their local elected representatives.
"They are all the same," said Judelia Nicolas, 25, who has lived at the building for seven years and pays $2,107 per month for her four bedroom apartment.
Many residents have joined with advocacy group Movement for Justice in El Barrio to file a suit against the landlord and HPD.
Records show there are 203 open violations at the building for bedbugs, lead paint and a lack of heat and hot water among other things.
The building's landlords claimed they have fixed many of the violations and were waiting for HPD approval and were in the process of replacing the boiler. Residents, however, say that have heard those excuses before.
HPD officials said they were doing everything in their power, including issuing violations and have already made $5,000 worth of repairs at the building.
HPD has also issued at least 61 violations at the building in February alone and have five cases pending against the landlord, including three that are warrants to gain access to the building to make repairs that they say the landlord will not. Those cases were postponed to March 10 because the landlords asked for time to secure an attorney.
City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said she was trying to set up a meeting between tenants and HPD.
"The meeting with tenants and HPD will seek to get to bottom of what options exist, since what tenants are relaying and what HPD is indicating are at odds with each other," Mark-Viverito said.
Meanwhile, residents say they are left to live in dangerous conditions.
Nicolas said she was concerned about constantly boiling water to warm the apartment and to bathe because of the four children who live there.
"One child could run and knock the water off the stove and get scalded," she said. "We have rights. We are paying to live here."
At Eufemia Mendoza's apartment, she ran through a litany of needed repairs, from the hole in her kitchen where giant rats enter the apartment to a hole in the ceiling and loose floor tiles that reveal splintering wood sub-floors.
"According to the landlord, everything is perfect," she said.