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Several Brooklyn Buildings Had Chronic Lack of Heat During Past Five Years, Report Finds

The report identified a total of 1,077 NYC buildings that had over five heat complaints from their respective tenants every winter from 2017 through 2021.
Comptroller Brad Lander. Photo: Supplied.

A new report from NYC Comptroller Brad Lander has found that over 1,000 buildings in New York City — including numerous buildings throughout Central and Eastern Brooklyn — have had a chronic lack of heat.

In the report, titled Turn Up the Heat, it was discovered that there were a total of 1,077 NYC buildings that had over five heat complaints from their respective tenants every winter from 2017 through 2021.

These buildings were located predominantly throughout Central and Eastern Brooklyn, Northwest and South Bronx, as well as in various Manhattan neighborhoods.

While the 1,077 buildings only made up 1.5% of total buildings that lodged complaints, the report found that they consisted of almost one third of all complaints in NYC during that time span, with over 244,000 complaints made.

Another issue highlighted was the shortcomings of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s in addressing the heat problems when complaints arise.

Of the 1,077 buildings with the most constant heat issues, the report found that more than a quarter of those buildings received zero enforcement action of any kind from HPD. As well, during the five-year period, only 3% of total heat complaints were met with violations issued by HPD, according to the report.

The Comptroller's report did indicate, however, that when the City does utilize its enforcement tactics, it is effective.

Issued violations from HPD to buildings were found to have led to a 47% average decrease in the number of heat complaints the next heat season and taking legal action correlated to a 45% average drop in complaints the following year.

In addition to highlighting the issues, the Comptroller report also provided an array of solutions in hopes of solving the heating problem throughout NYC.

Among the resolutions the report suggested included expanding HPD's Heat Sensor Program to buildings with persistent heat complaints (only 50 buildings currently have heat sensors installed), utilizing technology and data to prioritize inspections for buildings with multiple heat complaints, having more comprehensive inspections and identifying landlords' willingness to solve the issues, and more.

“The City must turn up the heat on landlords who leave their tenants in the cold,” said Lander.

“The good news here is that our enforcement tools work: when HPD issues violations, sues landlords, does emergency repairs, or installs heat sensors – problems get fixed. But far too often, none of those actions take place even in buildings that are cold year, after-year, after-year. More strategic, data-informed enforcement and escalating penalties against landlords who repeatedly fail to provide heat are necessary to ensure safe and warm apartments for all New York City tenants.”

“The Comptroller’s report demonstrates that our protocols and practices for enforcing the City’s heat laws are improving landlord behavior and protecting tenants’ health and safety," a HPD spokesperson said.

"Simply put: heat complaints decrease in buildings where HPD intervenes, as the report finds. We always respond to complaints and take the appropriate action when unsafe conditions are discovered. We are reviewing all of the findings and will assess the feasibility of the report’s recommendations on code enforcement.”

To view the full report and its findings, click here.