HARLEM – For the past month or so, 81-year-old Beatrice Hunter has woken each morning in her drafty Central Harlem home and boiled water.
With temperatures beginning to drop, Hunter says she needs the water to bathe since her city-owned apartment building at on West 140th Street has been without heat and hot water due to a broken boiler.
“I can’t even tell you when I’ve been in my bathtub,” she said.
Hunter’s story is among those of more than 90 tenants who live in the building, which is currently in the pipeline to become a part of the city’s Housing Development Fund Corporation, a program designed to give low-income tenants an opportunity for home ownership.
For months — and in some cases years — residents at the city-owned apartment building say they’ve faced “life-threatening” living conditions due to lack of inspections and repairs by the city.
They include “rampant mold,” mice, bed bugs, no heat or hot water.
The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which oversees the building, provided 70 sleeping bags to the tenants in the building, which many thought was offensive and insensitive.
Hunter, who suffers from arthritis and shingles, said she has had to get down on her hands and knees to plug mouse and rat holes.
“This is shameful,” Hunter said. “I don’t think I’m supposed to live like this.”
Jean Hockaday-Leslie, 70, who's home-bound and disabled, uses her oven to heat her apartment and has family members help boil water.
The city, residents said, has not heeded their concerns to replace the boiler, but instead carry out small repairs that cause it function infrequently.
“This is criminal,” said Elsia Vasquez, the founder of tenant advocacy group Pa’Lante.
Vasquez said the city is yet another “slumlord” for letting the conditions of the building persist.
Pa’Lante helped to organize tenants and held a rally Tuesday to call on the city to correct the issues.
Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright, who attended the rally, called the conditions "deplorable."
A tour of the building led by some of the residents showed the basement in disrepair, with one pipe tied together with an extension cord and makeshift wooden beams.
Other areas show what residents said were incomplete maintenance projects and a vacant apartment rampant with mold spores that have found their way into the occupied apartments of tenants with asthma and other health issues.
The building is slated to become one of 1,200 buildings with more than 30,000 HDFC units across the city, with many in neighborhoods such as Harlem and the Lower East Side.
An estimated 27 percent of HDFCs are in poor shape physically or financially, according to city data.
There are 18 vacant units in the 72-unit building on West 140th Street. Residents say the city has not allowed them to be renovated and occupied, which could provide revenue for additional maintenance.
An HPD spokeswoman, in a statement, said, “HPD takes the health and safety of tenants very seriously and is actively working to address the issues at this building.”
The agency also said it is in the process of repairing the boiler and expects it to be fixed by the end of the week.
Vasquez, the head of Pa’Lante, said if necessary the organization will help the tenants take the city to court to repair the building.