Brrr-ing in the summer already.
New Yorkers are shivering in their homes by the tens of thousands this winter as a series of crises disrupt the home heating market.
The global transportation predicament, labor shortages and skyrocketing fuel costs are conspiring to make staying warm at home more than ever – including my own.
A Washington Post reporter woke up Tuesday morning to this cold reality — a cold 36-degree apartment downtown — after waiting more than a month for repairs to a heating unit that never arrived. Too cold for frozen chips. and nearly half of the 68 degrees required by the New York City Housing Code.
My personal polar vortex arrived in late November when I tried to turn up the heat for the first time this season. The unit failed in life.
“The temperature here yesterday was 49 degrees. Very cold at night. Can we get someone to look at this soon?” I wrote to the property owner, Noam Management, on December 1.
Noam replied on the same day: “I have an official record that we have sent the repair company for this and they will return with an item that is still on order. They hope to return within the next two weeks.”
Three weeks passed without a solution. The owner replied that he still couldn’t get the part he needed.
December 22nd email to Noam: “A little help here? The cold is no longer a joke.” Then on Christmas Eve: “It’s still so cold here!”
The administration delivered one space heater on December 27, and then another in early January. They did not provide any warmth beyond a very small radius.
Patience finally broke like pond ice that morning at 36 degrees, bad enough to complain to the city and send a stern email to Noam.
Finally, the homeowner got down to business—motivated by sympathy, by the threat of a fine from the city, or perhaps by my occasional suggestion that the Post editors had taken over the story.
Noam said a repairman from a newly hired company arrived within 48 hours with the owner’s representative to make sure the issue was resolved. Noam did not respond to a request for comment.
It turns out, My Frost Place is just one example of a much broader crisis that has caused thousands of New Yorkers to suffer in the cold this winter.
The city’s Department of Home Preservation and Development (HPD) reported an 11 percent rise in heating complaints from 67,195 in the last quarter of 2020 to 74,912 during the last three months of 2021.
The huge rise in home heating problems comes despite historically mild temperatures. National Weather Service Reports December 2021 was the third warmest temperature ever recorded in Central Park. The average temperature was 43.8 degrees, 4.7 degrees above normal.
“It’s a domino effect and [delays] “It’s very common in our industry right now,” said Silvia Dudek-Gorsky of Viglia & Sons Heating in Manhattan. “A lot of the supplies, a lot of the parts, are manufactured overseas and people can’t get them right now.”
One technician told me he waited six months for a 12-ton HVAC unit to reach an apartment building in Queens – “in normal times it takes two days”.
It is hard to find good help.
“You used to be able to walk down the street and find an HVAC worker in every building,” said the 30-year-old veteran industry expert. “Now you can’t make anyone come to work.”
Record home heating costs are also fueling the crisis, forcing landlords to cut costs, such as ordering just half a tank of oil, a New York City housing attorney said, and helping spark the surge in housing court cases this season.
Home heating oil hit a record $3.71 a gallon in New York City in November, according to state data, a staggering 45 percent jump over the $2.55 price last year.