Thousands without heat during frigid temps

From El Diario La Prensa:

Last week’s wave of freezing temperatures literally plunged thousands of families into the cold.

During the first four days of the new year, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) received a total of 5,480 reports from people that didn’t have heating. Brooklyn had the highest number of complaints at 1,918, followed by the Bronx, which had 1,779.

Manhattan had 966 reports, Queens had 771, and Staten Island had 46, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Gladys Puglla, an Ecuadorian woman living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, is one of those who slept at night without heating. “It’s a problem at night, because the owner of the building turns off the boiler at 6pm and doesn’t turn it on again until 7am,” said Puglla, a single mother who lives with her three children and 2-year-old granddaughter.

According to Puglla, to keep the family warm at night, she boils water and plugs in a small heater. “I’ve complained to the HPD and they send inspectors during the day, and of course they see that everything is all right, but they haven’t sent a single inspector at night, which is when we suffer from the cold,” she said.

John Figueroa, the owner of the building, defended himself by explaining that city law requires landlords to maintain heating at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and said that he always keeps the temperature above that.

“That lady had complained to the HPD more than 20 times over the past year. The inspectors have come to the building and they don’t find any problem,” said Figueroa, who owns building number 1406 on Putnam Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Like Puglla, other residents have complained to authorities about the issue.

311 received a total of 79,948 complaints about lack of heating in October, November, and December of 2011, according to data provided by the office of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

“Leaving tenants without heating is morally wrong and dangerous; moreover it’s illegal,” said de Blasio, who got a law passed in the City Council last year that increases the number of penalties for landlords that repeatedly don’t provide heating for their tenants.

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