It was a cold Christmas for NYCHA tenants in East Harlem.
A heat and hot water outage Tuesday at the Jefferson Houses, between 1st and 3rd Aves. and E. 112th and E. 115th Sts. forced residents to stay warm by donning sweaters and clustering around their cooking stoves.
“I’m very cold — very, very cold,” tenant Luz Rosa, 76, said in Spanish.
Outdoor temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s did not stop Rosa from hosting friends and sharing holiday cheer at her home in Building 9, at 327 East 112th St.
“I have to warm up water to wash, to take a bath, to cook,” she said. “I’m always warming up water. I always have my stove on. It’s the only way to get warm.”
NYCHA has struggled since before Thanksgiving to provide heat and hot water for Jefferson tenants.
“It’s been at least three days now with no hot water, no heat,” said Wanda Vasquez, 27, who lives in her mother’s apartment with her two kids, ages seven and eight. “I have to boil water to use it to shower or to use it for anything.”
It seems like there’s no end in sight.
A cardboard sign notifying tenants of a hot water outage supposedly caused by a “pipe busted” was posted in Building 9 on Dec. 1.
“You would think that at least for Christmas they would fix this,” Vasquez said. “But it doesn’t work that way.”
Tenants told the Daily News that Building 9 was the only one of the Jefferson Houses’ 18 buildings experiencing problems on Christmas.
The de Blasio administration has vowed quickly replace or repair any of NYCHA’s busted boilers.
Before Thanksgiving, NYCHA sent repair teams to check on all of its nearly 2,000 boilers at 320 developments across the city. The de Blasio administration has also earmarked millions to make sure tenants are not left in the cold following massive outages last winter.
The city’s efforts were no help to April Washington over the holidays.
After two days without heat and hot water, he says that on Christmas day a NYCHA representative called him to talk about the problem.
“I don’t know why they would just call today,” he said. “It’s Christmas. And it’s already been two days I haven’t had hot water.”
Washington said the NYCHA rep wasn’t able say when the repairs would be complete.
“Man, this is sad,” he said. “My 3-year-old doesn’t really know the difference because this is the norm here. I still tried to make it a good Christmas for her. But it could have been better. When you’re cold it doesn’t have the same feeling because you’re just thinking about being cold.”
Jay McCray, 49, also suffered through the holiday in the cold. “This is a persistent problem,” he said.
The building has other issues, he added.
“The elevator is out, the lights outside on our building are out, the lights in our hallway are out so it’s always dark,” McCray said. “And the water is ice-cold. We had a pipe burst in our building because it was so cold and it flooded my apartment. I have water damage in my bedroom, kitchen and living room.”
But he says NYCHA ought to do better with the heat and hot water.
“They know that over the holidays people living here are going to have family and friends over but they still don’t make repairs,” McCray said. “If we pay rent diligently, why can’t they come over to fix this?”