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Bed-Stuy Residents Brave the Cold Without Heat, Hot Water

By Paul DeBenedetto | November 26, 2013 12:06pm | Updated on November 26, 2013 1:23pm
 Residents of 160 Vernon Ave. say they've gone without heat or hot water for more than a year.
No Heat or Hot Water at 160 Vernon Ave.
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Residents of a Bed-Stuy apartment building have been shivering in freezing apartments and taking cold showers because their building manager won't fix a broken boiler and water heater — a hold-up management blames on the Buildings Department.

Tenants at 160 Vernon Ave. said they've complained to the management company 156-160 Vernon LLC, and to the city about the problem since the boiler went down last September, to no avail.

They shivered through much of last winter, and as the temperatures plunge again this year, the situation has become even more serious, neighbors said.

"If you stay in the house, you freeze," said Magaly Hidalgo, 35, a home attendant who lives in the building. "Sometimes it's better outside."

But the management company, which currently has 89 open violations at the location with the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, says the city is at fault.

"The whole entire delay we have is because DOB is late," said a representative of 156-160 Vernon LLC., Yides Weinstock. "This is really irresponsible on their part, not on our part."

Weinstock added that the new equipment was in place, and that the DOB gave them a "late inspection date" for the heat to be turned back on. 156-160 Vernon LLC owner Moshe Gold was not available for comment, she said.

A DOB spokeswoman could not confirm when the inspection was requested, but said on Tuesday that an inspection was performed Tuesday morning, which the building failed.

The spokeswoman did not immediately have the reason for the failed inspection, but said the agency issued temporary documentation to the building's management in order to have the heat and hot water turned back on.

Records show the city's Department of Buildings issued a permit for 156-160 Vernon LLC to install a new boiler in October this year, after approving the application in December last year. It is unclear why there was such a lag between approval and the permit being issued.

A permit to fit a new hot water heater was issued in December 2012.

A DOB source said that once the permits have been issued, work can begin. An inspection would normally take place after work is completed, to make sure the boiler and hot water heater were installed properly.

In order to keep warm, neighbors said they've been running space heaters nonstop, leading to high electric bills. At least one resident has resorted to opening his oven and turning up the heat in order to raise the temperature in his apartment.

Neighbors said they also have to start their days with icy cold showers.

"It's been several weeks where I'm just taking cold showers," said Danny Rennhoff, 29. "It's like standing in a river brook."

Rennhoff and others sit bundled up in their apartments, in hoodies and jackets, vests and scarves. A stack of blankets sits on Rennhoff's couch.

A television production coordinator, Rennhoff said he can't turn on his space heater — which sits on top of a non-working radiator — while he's at work because it's a fire hazard. So every morning, he wakes up two hours before leaving in order to heat up the house for his french bulldog, Coco, who stays alone in the cold apartment all day.

"It's terrible," Rennhoff said. "She's sitting here in an ...icebox."

When asked if the company would reimburse tenants for rent and electric bills, Weinstock said they have been in contact with residents, and that once the issue was "resolved" they would reimburse them.

But neighbors said on Monday that they've never had any such conversations with Weinstock or any other building reps. In fact, they said, they've been hounded for rent.

In the meantime, some residents, said they're refusing to pay rent.

"They called me last week for my rent," said 45-year-old tenant Victor Barlow. "I said, 'kiss my a--.'"