EXCLUSIVE: One year later, makeshift NYCHA boiler still fills East Harlem apartments with tar-like substance; “They are literally killing us”
New York — Last September, CBS New York’s Lisa Rosner covered health concerns in East Harlem on a…By the New York City Housing Authority.
NYCHA said the boiler would be removed within months, but a year later, it’s still there and residents say the problem has gotten worse.
The same dark smoke fills the air outside the homes of Metro North Plaza on East 102nd Street between First and Second Avenues, seeping into apartments facing the street.
“I had asthma before I moved here, but now it’s worse,” East Harlem resident Maria Ramos told Rosner.
“The smoke is darker and more consistent,” area resident Marilyn Morales said.
Morales, who lives across the street in the Section 8 residence, showed Rosner the black, tar-like substance on her windows and floors last year, and it’s still there.
She said the department recently gave her the type of cleaning supplies used after the fire. Last week, the public housing inspector found that the apartment failed to meet air quality standards.
“They are literally killing us, and they claim it is not dangerous,” she said. “It is like putting my head in the stove and smelling gas.”
She said her grandchildren, whom she monitors regularly, have developed asthma, and that she does not sleep in her bedroom because there is no air conditioning there.
“It’s like my breathing changes, my anxiety changes…it’s just too much,” she said.
Resident Luisa Reyes told us in Spanish that no one knows anything, and her electricity bill has tripled because she has to run the air conditioning all the time. Last year, doctors told her she had spots on her lungs, and she says she has no family history.
“She thinks it’s because she’s having trouble breathing,” Morales said.
The “temporary” boiler has been in place for approximately eight years. A NYCHA spokesperson told CBS New York, in part, “The agency is nearing completion of a $51 million project to build a flexible heat and hot water plant… We are currently working with Con Edison to connect gas service,” the agency added. It is expected to be completed by the heating season.
Con Ed said he is waiting for NYCHA to operate the service.
There are three permits — one from the Department of Transportation and two from the Department of Buildings — that have all expired. The last one sold out in April.
The city did not respond to us about the expired permits, but after we pressed NYCHA, a city spokesperson said staff would be trained to use the new boiler system next week, adding: “The mobile boiler will remain on site for a brief back-up period while we confirm the new plant is up and running.” “At full capacity.”
A spokesman for Phipps Housing, which manages Section 8 housing across the street, said it is also urging NYCHA to remove the boiler immediately.
Residents wonder: Will NYCHA keep its promise so they can open their windows again?
The federal monitor who oversees NYCHA says they are aware of problems resulting from extensive damage to heating systems from Superstorm Sandy. They added that temporary boilers are not a long-term solution, and they are focused on making sure much-needed improvements are made.
(tags for translation) NYCHA