Brrr–ing on summer already.
New Yorkers are shivering at home by the tens of thousands this winter as a series of crises disrupt the home heating market.
A global transportation logjam, labor shortages and skyrocketing fuel costs are conspiring to make it harder than ever to stay warm at home — including my own.
This Post reporter woke up Tuesday morning to that cold reality — a frigid 36-degree Midtown apartment — after waiting more than a month for heating unit repairs that never arrived. Too cold for Frosted Flakes. And nearly half the 68 degrees required by New York City housing code.
My personal polar vortex arrived in late November when attempting to turn on the heat for the first time this season. The unit failed to come alive.
“It was 49 degrees in here yesterday. Very chilly at night. Can we get somebody to look at this soon?” I wrote to my landlord, Noam Management, on Dec. 1.
Noam responded the same day: “I have on record that we sent the repair company for this and they will be back with a part which is still on back order. They are hoping it will be back in within the next 2 weeks.”
Three weeks passed with no resolution; the landlord responding that they still couldn’t get the part needed.
A Dec. 22 email to Noam: “Little help over here? Cold no longer a joke.” Then on Christmas Eve: “Still very frosty in here!”
Management delivered a space heater on Dec. 27, and then another in early January. They provided no warmth beyond a very small radius.
Patience finally cracked like pond ice on that 36-degree morning this week, bad enough to file a complaint with the city and fire off a more strongly worded email to Noam.
My landlord finally sprung into action – spurred by sympathy, the threat of a city fine, or perhaps by my casual reference that Post editors caught wind of the story.
A repairman from a newly hired company, Noam said, arrived within 48 hours, along with a landlord rep to make sure the problem was solved. Noam did not respond to a request for comment.
Turns out my hoarfrost homestead is just one example of a much wider crisis causing thousands of New Yorkers to suffer in the cold this winter.
The city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) reports an 11 percent spike in heating complaints from 67,195 in the final quarter of 2020 to 74,912 over the last three months of 2021.
The dramatic rise in home heating issues comes despite historically mild temperatures. The National Weather Service reports that December 2021 was the third warmest on record in Central Park. The average temperature of 43.8 degrees was 4.7 degrees above normal.
“It’s a domino effect and [delays] are very common in our industry right now,” said Sylvia Dudek-Gorski of Manhattan heating company Figlia & Sons. “A lot of supplies, a lot of parts, are manufactured overseas and people just can’t get them right now.”
A technician told me that he waited six months for a 12½-ton HVAC unit to arrive at a Queens apartment building – “in normal times it takes two days.”
And good help is hard to find.
“You used to be able to walk down the street and find an AC guy on every block,” said the 30-year industry veteran. “Now you can’t get anybody to come to work.”
Record home heating costs are also fueling the crisis, forcing landlords to cut costs, such as ordering only half a tank of oil, said one NYC housing attorney, and helping spark the increase in housing court cases he’s witnessed this season.
Home heating oil hit a record $3.71 per gallon in New York City in November, according to state data, a staggering leap of 45 percent higher than the $2.55 price a year ago.