Still without heat and hot water in my apartment, and why 311 has been useless

I’m sitting in my unheated apartment after having taken a shower that alternated between cold and lukewarm. I’m so used to this that I even brought my space heater in the bathroom to have it blasting on me when I was drying off.

For all of this fall and winter, I have been with intermittent heat and unpredictable hot water. Our living room radiator is not radiating heat. Our pipes are not radiating heat. The radiator in my room radiates occasionally, and not nearly long enough to keep the room legally above NYC’s warranty of habitability.

I have called my management office, and my building manager Sam Rosner (I’m happy to publicize his name at this point), probably a combined 100+ times. They have consistently given me the runaround. No call backs, false promises that they will have the super come and fix it. They’ve never called the super, I’ve always had to call him. And he has always told me that he can’t fix it because the problem is the boiler, which the management needs to fix because it is on its last legs. This seems plausible since last year our heat was fine, and other people in the building have been having the same issues this year (though inexplicably the people I’ve talked to have not even called the management company). Also, my super replaced the radiator valves, which did nothing. And our pipes, which do not have valves, have also not radiated heat.

I’m starting to think management is trying to drive us nuts, because, every so often it has come back on, and I have believed, falsely, that things are back up and running. 

One of the many things I’ve realized in this ordeal is that 311 has been absolutely worthless. So much so that I’m beginning to realize that 311 is the perfect example of what the Bloomberg administration has been for the average, non-rich New Yorker. The goal of 311 is to streamline all city inquiries to one phone number that can be easily reached and remembered. And it’s true, I’ll never forget the numbers 3-1-1 (there is a band with that name after all), and I do get an operator almost always within the first few minuts of making a call.

But here’s the thing: the operators do not help at all. For my heat calls, they have filed a complaint with Housing Preservation & Development. Now, I’ve filed several complaints with HPD, even though HPD has never actually visited my apartment and resolved my isue. They came one and left a note saying that they had been there but I hadn’t been home. Fine, I thought. Why don’t I contact them and try to figure out a time when we can both be home? Well, I went to their website and the only number I could find was 311. I’m supposed to call 311 for all status updates on my HPD complaint, even though all 311 will tell you is whether it has been closed or not. They can’t give you any details because they do not work for HPD.

A couple of weeks ago I finally heard from an HPD agent. It was a Saturday and I had just woken up from a nap in my frigid bedroom. The agent said an inspector would come this week. I asked if I could know when the inspector might come so I could be home, since I normally have to go into work during the week. The agent told me that HPD “no longer schedules inspections.” Fine, I said, could you at least tell me what day they might come? How about Wednesday?” I asked. “They don’t really do that, but I’ll let them know,” is what she said.

Here’s my question: what use is an agency that inspects heat violations if they cannot actually inspect it? And here’s a second question: why do they need to see me personally? Why can’t they call the building manager when they come here and demand to see the boiler? If they don’t schedule appointments, then this should be easy for them to do.

But now I want to just go back for a second to 311, because it is where I started. Although 311 in theory sounds like a paragon of simplicity, the type of idea that only an organized and efficient managerial mind like Mayor Bloomberg could conceive and implement, it is entirely facile. It doesn’t actually change government agencies to be more responsive to New Yorkers, it just puts them in touch with people who can give them the false sense that their complaints will be addressed, all the while preventing us from actually being able to reach the city government agency that is relevant to our problem.

It reminds me a lot of Bloomberg’s approach to education, which has been more about manipulating data to present a picture of success than of actually improving schools and students.

I’m not saying that this stuff was great before Bloomberg - I didn’t live here then, but what is so disturbing is conceiving that this guy is so rich that at this point in his life, he probably has no concept whatsoever of what it’s like to be a normal New Yorker. And it ain’t easy. It’s crowded and everything’s expensive, and we are taxed highly. I love this city, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t put up with this crap, but I do believe that those of us who don’t have jobs that are going to make us millions or even hundreds of thousands still deserve a decent quality of life. And this starts with an accountable government, which in the Bloomberg administration has been just a mirage.

Today I called Sam Rosner and told him that we were planning on taking legal action, which we are, over this issue. Mr. Rosner is some kind of Hasidic Jew, not sure which kind. I am a reform Jew. Often times, Hasids lord their religion over other Jews and non-Jews, and I have nothing against most Hasids – I don’t know most Hasids – but every time I have dealt with a Hasidic management company in Brooklyn, they have given me the runaround. So I resent that these people act as if they’re more religious than us.

Anyway, what I said to Sam Rosner was this: “I don’t know how you can call yourself a religious man if you’re leaving your tenants without heat or hot water over the holidays.”