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With temperatures in the borough dropping to single digits on Saturday, the citys Department of Housing Preservation and Development received a record number of calls from tenants who said they did not have enough heat in their building.
I attribute the record-setting volume to the temperature and also to 311, said Carol Abrams, a spokesperson for HPD.
HPD recorded 5,142 calls to 311 on Saturday from tenants who complained about lack of heating. The prior record of 4,083 calls in a single day was set on Jan. 17, 2000. On average winter days, the city receives 1,500 heating-related calls.
Lawrence Lame, 57, an attorney who lives at 98-30 67th Ave. in Rego Park, said the temperature in his apartment hovered consistently at around 60 degrees on cold days this winter, until tenants called a meeting and decided to pay rent into court until the heating situation was fixed. Since then, the temperature in the buildings apartments has been around 70 degrees.
Its been great, balmy, absolutely tropical ever since we told them were not going to pay rent, said Lame. It shows you they can heat the apartments when they want to heat the apartments.
By law, landlords are required to maintain an indoor temperature of at least 68 degrees between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. when the temperature outdoors falls below 55 degrees, said Abrams. Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., building owners must maintain an indoor temperature of 55 degrees when the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees.
Abrams urged tenants living in heat-deficient apartments to first attempt to notify their buildings owner, managing agent or superintendent. If heat is not restored, the tenant should call 311 to file a complaint.
Depending on whether or not the landlord steps up to provide heat, the city generally takes one to three days to respond to complaints, said Abrams.
If the landlord is negligent and the city has to do it, the city will, but it takes time to get to everyone, said Abrams.
Lame said he and other tenants in his building have called 311 numerous times to complain about lack of heat, but usually the HPD inspector shows up three days to a week after the complaint when the temperature outside is warmer.
We constantly told them come down on a Sunday at 8, 9 p.m. when the heat is turned down, said Lame. They come down when its 60, 65 degrees outside, and I say put your head in the refrigerator if you want to find a violation.
Though the weekends cold spell eased on Sunday, temperatures were expected to drop again to as low as 2 degrees on Thursday and 11 degrees on Friday.
Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Borough President Helen Marshall, said in addition to calling 311, borough tenants can call Borough Hall at 718-286-2650 for assistance in restoring heat to their apartment quickly.
We certainly encourage people, particularly the elderly and those who are more susceptible to the cold to (call), said Andrews. Well also be keeping an eye on some of the areas that sometimes experience difficulty in stormy weather, including College Point, parts of Flushing and the Rockaway peninsula.
The New York City Fire Department urged residents to be cautious when using heating equipment such as space heaters, furnaces and fireplaces, which can cause furniture to catch on fire if not given enough space. Portable space heaters should be at least three feet from any objects that could burn, and should always be turned off when leaving the room or going to sleep, the FDNY advised.
Adrian Benepe, the citys Parks and Recreation Commissioner warned people never to go on ponds and streams that may appear to be frozen unless the ice is clearly marked with an official sign. If frozen water begins to crack underneath a person, he or she should lie down immediately to try to distribute body weight on the surface of the ice.
There are many ways for New Yorkers to enjoy the winter season in our great parks but venturing near water bodies is extremely dangerous and can be life threatening, said Benepe.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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