As temperatures get cooler, city dwellers are now in what’s known as “heat season,” the eight-month long period where property owners are required to maintain adequate heat in residential buildings.
According to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), heat season lasts from Oct. 1 to May 31. All residential building owners are required to maintain indoor temperatures at 68 degrees when outdoor temperatures fall below 55 degrees during the day. Indoor temperatures must also be a minimum of 62 degrees overnight, regardless of outdoor temperatures.
Forecasters are predicting a harsh winter ahead being dubbed by the Old Farmer’s Almanac as “a season of shivers” with experts saying New Yorkers should be prepared for below-average temperatures and above-normal snowfall.
“With cold weather just around the corner, it is important to remember that property owners must provide heat and hot water as required by law during heat season,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “If your apartment is without heat or hot water today through May 31st, report it to your landlord. If the condition is not corrected, report it to 311. HPD takes every complaint seriously and will use all of its enforcement tools to get heat and hot water restored.”
HPD reports that last year they conducted over 100,000 heat and hot water inspections. The agency says they respond to heat and hot water complaints as quickly as possible. Tenants can monitor HPD Online to learn the result of the complaint. If a landlord fails to provide heat entirely, HPD’s Emergency Repair Program or Housing Litigation Division will intervene to seek the restoration of heat.
Last year, the top areas of the with most heat complaints were Manhattan Community Board 12, which includes Inwood and Washington Heights, with nearly 11,000 complaints and Bronx Community Board 5, which includes Fordham, University Heights and Morris Heights, with over 10,000 complaints
To prevent serious health issues related to indoor hypothermia, people in homes or apartments without heat should protect themselves by wearing warm layers of clothing, staying hydrated, and ensuring there is an adequate amount of safe heat. HPD warns that using auxiliary heating, like a space heater or an oven, can be dangerous.
Public housing has battled with issue heating for years, oftentimes leaving NYCHA residents literally in the cold. One politician is already telling the agency to prepare for the cold month ahead.
Brooklyn City Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who heads the Committee on Public Housing, questioned if NYCHA was prepared. There were 582 heat outages in NYCHA in the fall and winter of 2020 and 2021.
“I cannot count how many times I’ve received calls from residents, requesting hot plates and asking that million-dollar question — ‘How long will my gas be out?’ — to which I never have an answer,” Ampry-Samuel she said.
The AmNews reached out to NYCHA about their preparations for the upcoming winter. An agency spokesperson referred to a press release that stated NYCHA’s Heating Management, Operations, Emergency Management, and Capital Projects departments have been working collaboratively throughout the year to repair and maintain the Authority’s boilers, distribution equipment, and hot water systems.
“NYCHA fully understands the impact that heating outages have on residents, which is why we work throughout the year to prepare for the cold weather,” said NYCHA Chief Operating Officer Vito Mustaciuolo. “The Authority continues to improve the quality of our heating equipment and increase the capacity of our staff and vendors to promptly address our residents’ needs.”
The agency says over the past three years, NYCHA has reduced heat outages from 1,127 outages in the 2018-2019 heating season to 582 in the most recent 2020-2021 season. The average restoration time also dropped from 8.8 hours to 7.3 during the same period.
A NYCHA spokesperson provided several facts and figures about work to improve heat in public housing including the claim that 92% of total heat outages last year were resolved within 12 hours. The agency has invested more than $45 million to upgrade heat and hot water equipment as well as related heating system parts.
Through 2024, NYCHA is replacing 310 boilers across 76 developments as part of a $930 million investment of city, state, and federal dollars.