Inflation hammering utilities for Bronx residents; seniors concerned about making ends meet

stack of one hundred dollars notes
The rise in inflation is hammering utility bills for Bronx residents.
Photo courtesy Getty

With the largest inflation spike in 40 years, Bronx residents, particularly seniors, are concerned about skyrocketing costs.

The massive uptick in water, electric and gas bills have Bronxites’ pockets hurting. Residents have claimed their Con Ed bills have increased by 25% and some as high as 80%. Some of the people affected the most are seniors, who often live on fixed incomes relying on their pensions and social security — like Carmela Corrente of Pelham Bay.

Corrente, a retired vice president of a bank, has owned a home for 50 years and has never had issues paying bills until recently. Corrente, 75, lives with her brother John, and they pay $6,000 per year in property taxes and $2,800 for homeowners’ insurance. However, her monthly water bill has gone up by $150, her Con-Ed bill has increased by $130 and her oil bill has increased by $200.

“We manage to pay our mortgage, and we don’t have much left to pay for food afterwards,” she told the Bronx Times.

Corrente, who was in the banking industry for 52 years, saved money in a 401(k) and a Roth IRA, but she is still struggling today. According to Corrente, living on a fixed income is normally fine, but with no one predicting the rise in inflation to end anytime soon, things are getting scary.

“Now with this (Ukraine) war going on, prices are going to be outrageous,” she said. “I’m not looking for a handout.”

Corrente said she reached out to Con Ed, and they gave her lip service. With a tight budget, she is lucky if she goes out socially once during the next few months, she told the Bronx Times.

The massive uptick in water, electric and gas bills have Bronxites’ pockets hurting. Residents have claimed their Con Ed bills have increased by 25% and some as high as 80%. Photo courtesy Getty Images

Inflation has also impacted her medical bills and health care costs. Her Medicare coverage went up to $170 a month. She now has to pay a co-pay for doctors’ visits and also co-insurance for tests, and anything else the 80% insurance doesn’t cover.

“Everybody is struggling right now, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “Those of us who have worked our whole lives and lived off a pension and social security, what’s going to happen next?”

Fellow senior, Roseanne Rosetta of Morris Park, shares Corrente’s concerns. Rosetta, 72, lost her job as a dental hygienist during the pandemic and since then, life hasn’t been easy.

Things were OK at first when she received unemployment, but with government assistance ending and inflation rising, her financial situation has become a burden. Rosetta is behind on mortgage payments and several months late on her utility bills.

Receiving $1,800 a month on social security is not enough right now, she said.

“I’m waiting for them to hand me an eviction notice,” she added.

According to Rosetta, her utility bills began spiking about six months ago and since then, things have really spiraled.

With the help of a few local nonprofits, she began hosting a food pantry every Friday from her home a few months ago. Each week she feeds about 80 families, many of which are seniors hurting like herself.

“I’ve worked my whole life, since I was 16, and I never thought I would be at this place,” she said. “You have a lot of families that aren’t doing well.”

Rosetta said she will likely have to look into a loan modification — typically granted to a borrower who can’t repay the loan under its original terms — in order to keep her home. Unfortunately, she is not optimistic about her future and left wondering if, at some point, she won’t have a place to sleep.

As inflation continues to impact residents in the Bronx, rental prices in Throggs Neck have also spiked. Photo Adrian Childress

“I have to pay it (her mortgage) off this week or next or they’re going to put a notice on my door,” she said.

Pelham Gardens resident Phyllis Nastasio is a small landlord of a four-family home and has seen her bills skyrocket as well. Nastasio, a teacher in Morris Park and a landlord for seven years, said she has never raised rent on her tenants.

“This year, I’m afraid I’m going to have to raise the rent,” she admitted.

Her water bills have ballooned from $591 in September to $1,300 in November to $1,800 in February. When she called to ask about the high bill, Nastasio was told it was because of wastewater — she doesn’t buy it.

“In my opinion, I think everybody needs to be audited,” Nastasio said. “We can’t have these ridiculous increases.”

Her tenants pay the electric bill, but her gas bills totaled $1,300 last month. The tenants pay $2,000 a month for two-bedroom units, which is barely covering expenses right now, Nastasio said.

“We’re paying them (the bills), but there’s not extra money at the end of the month,” she said. “None of our elected officials are fighting for us.”

She said a Con Edison representative attended the Morris Park Community Association meeting earlier this month where she felt they essentially offered no viable explanation as to why the prices have increased. She told the Bronx Times she is worried about seniors in the Pelham Gardens and Morris Park sections of the Bronx, many of which live on fixed incomes.

“How is it possible the rates went up so much?” she asked. “It’s a good thing I work because I could never survive on what I get here.”

Read more about rising utilities here, and how inflation is impacting gas and food costs here.

Reach Jason Cohen at jcohen@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

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