Big Chill at Pelham Houses

Hundreds of residents at the Pelham Parkway Houses are fuming over the Big Chill there.

They’ve had to suffer through on-again, off-again heat and hot water for days at a time.

The problem for parts of the project began on the evening on Thursday, Nov. 7 and continued until Tuesday, Nov. 12. Sporadic outages continued past Nov. 12 until at least Nov. 15 and appear to be ongoing.

The outage occurred after a work crew interrupted service on a gas line near Mace Avenue that provides heat and hot water for buildings south of the Columbus Educational Campus and north of Pelham Parkway, near Bronxwood Avenue.

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and Councilman Jimmy Vacca both pushed the New York City Housing Authority into action. The agency provided blankets which some residents complained were too thin, and worked to get the heating systems back online in the building.

Gjonaj, who has a background in real estate management, said permanent repairs to the line servicing part of the project will be needed. Gjonaj personally went into the basements of the buildings with NYCHA engineers to assess the situation, even on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, he said.

He called the outage a major hardship.

“It was a heartfelt concern for the residents because it just so happened that this was during the first cold snap, and they were not prepared,” said Gjonaj. “You’ve got elderly, young, and some who are disabled and sick, including one young man who is suffering from leukemia and recently had surgery, so there were plenty of issues.”

He said that both he and Vacca promised to look into providing electric heaters if the situation worsened.

Eventually, NYCHA brought in a mobile boiler in an attempt to restore service, residents said.

“It is unacceptable for people to be without heat and hot water at any time – let alone with temperatures near freezing,” said Vacca. “I visited with residents to assure them I would do everything in my power to resolve the issue, and luckily we were able to relatively quickly.”

Tenant Lorraine Ritter of 2245 Bronxwood Avenue, confirmed that sporadic problems continued past Nov. 12, “NYCHA should have been on top of it.”

Cathy McFadden, a tenant at 840 Astor Aveneue, was still without heat or hot water as of Friday, Nov. 15. “We are not happy,” she said. “All you can do is dress warmly.”

NYCHA’s only response to the Bronx Times, via e-mail, was that the outages were sporadic and were fixed and addressed immediately.

Gjonaj said that while he wanted to commend NYCHA for responding over a holiday weekend and for calling out senior personnel, the city has a double-standard when it comes to judging itself as a landlord with NYCHA, and in judging private landlords.

“The truth is that there is no private landlord who would ever be able to get away with what NYCHA does,” he said. “I am hopeful that the new administration will turn this around. I believe they will.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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