BUSHWICK — Public housing tenants facing a month-long gas outage complained hot plates handed out by the city were giving them electric shocks — and were told if they were concerned about safety, they didn't have to use them.
The New York City Housing Authority's response came after one tenant of the Independence Tower on Taylor Street said he shocked himself multiple times on a hot plate distributed by NYCHA in the wake of a gas outage on February 14.
At least two more tenants complained of shocks.
"I was shocked twice," lamented Daniel Rodriguez, 77, of his attempts to use the plates. "I put my hand on the counter and grabbed the pot at the same time.
"It was like electricity was going through my body."
Rodriguez confronted Michael Rosen, Senior Deputy Director of NYCHA's Mixed Finance Asset Management, at a packed meeting Thursday night in the apartment lobby.
His concerns were echoed by a visually impaired woman who said she can not operate the plate safely, as well as another woman who said her husband had been shocked repeatedly.
Rosen responded that the plates were new and of the same kind other public housing tenants had been given in the past, and said there was nothing the department could do to help Rodriguez at this time.
"If anybody has any concerns about the hot plates," Rosen said, "please do not use them."
"I know these plates are not answers to stoves," Rosen added, drawing an angry reaction from the crowd. "We've tried to help ease something. It's not enough, but it's what we're able to do."
The outage is expected to continue for up to five more weeks, NYCHA officials said, due to vital work in the wake of a gas leak in the basement. The hot plates will be the only form of stove that the tenants will be able to use during that time.
Rosen said NYCHA would "expedite the process" of repairing the leak and hoped to have the gas restored by Passover in April, when the dozens of Hasidic residents in the building prepare traditional multi-course feasts.
Pamela Cowherd, another concerned resident, told Rosen that the department should take the tenants' concerns seriously.
"You should be concerned," she said. "It's just not safe."
Councilman Stephen Levin told tenants at the meeting that he would advocate for compensation, whether in the form of a rent abatement or a credit card they could use to buy food.