As this year’s first “polar vortex” passes and the first day of winter arrives, hopefully you’ve found something good in the pocket of your old winter coat. Winter is undoubtedly one of the most stylish seasons of the year, with so many different ways to layer up. Unfortunately, many New Yorkers, in at least 20,000 buildings that have reported heat complaints, may have to keep their coats on even when they’re not braving the winter weather.
This “Heat Season”, 311 has seen a sharp increase in calls versus the same period last year, despite us having a similarly mild Fall. Removing repeated same-day calls, we see that complaints are up 20% from last year, with 57,820 heat complaints coming in this October 1st – December 18th, whereas last year there were 48,174 complaints.
This weekend’s “polar vortex” brought in 4,339 unique complaints, a hefty amount that certainly kept 311 operators busy, but not enough to take credit for the sharp uptick in Heat Complaints.
To get a better picture of how these heat complaints are spread out, we put them on a map, and normalized neighborhoods based on the number of rental units according to the American Community Survey. Addresses that amassed the most complaints are represented with markers. The raw data can be found on NYC’s OpenData portal.
Mapping shows us that the worst culprits are clustered together, primarily in the West Bronx, Central Brooklyn, and Northern Manhattan. Cold buildings also tended to be in close proximity to each other, suggesting that lack of heat is caused less by weather and more by geography and demographics.
Breaking things down by borough, we see that all boroughs are receiving more complaints than last year, but Manhattan and Staten Island increased less than the city as a whole.
|Borough||Rental Units||Complaints / 1,000 RUs 2016||Complaints 2016||Complaints / 1,000 RUs 2015||Complaints 2015||Percent Change|
- The Bronx has the highest density of complaints, at 44.5 per 1,000 housing units
- Brooklyn has the most complaints, and has seen the greatest increase in complaints
- Manhattan increased the least, about 14% less than the city as a whole
Looking at neighborhoods, we see 3 of the coldest 5 neighborhoods are in the Bronx, being led by Belmont (Little Italy) with Norwood very close behind.
|Neighborhood||Borough||Complaints / 1,000 RUs 2016||Complaints 2016||Complaints / 1,000 RUs 2015||Complaints 2015||Percent Change|
|Belmont (Little Italy)||Bronx||69.6||573||57.8||476||20.4%|
|Bedford Park – Fordham North||Bronx||66.4||1,181||56.1||998||18.3%|
These neighborhoods had sharp increases in complaints since last year:
- Oakland Gardens, Queens (172%) – 60 vs 22
- Bergen Beach / Mill Basin, Brooklyn (140%) – 101 vs 42
- East Williamsburg, Brooklyn (119%) – 236 vs 108
- Battery Park City, Manhattan (103%) – 112 vs 55
While some neighborhoods saw great improvements versus the same period last year:
- Glendale, Queens (-41.9%) – 50 vs 86
- Breezy Point / Rockaway Park, Queens (-38.5%) – 91 vs 148
- Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village, Manhattan (-37.5%) – 50 vs 80
- Queens bridge / Ravenswood / LIC, Queens (-36.5%) – 40 vs 63
Some addresses made as many complaints as whole neighborhoods, such as 89-21 Elmhurst Ave, in Elmhurst Queens, which made 390 complaints to 311 (but “only” 28 unique calls). When we did our calculations we grouped same-day calls from a single address to try to lessen the effect of what could be a personal vendetta against a landlord.
The top offender addresses were spread across the boroughs:
- 644 Riverside Dr, Hamilton Heights, Manhattan – 63 unique complaints (109 raw)
- 1030 Boynton Ave, Soundview, Bronx – 56 unique complaints (128 raw)
- 2968 Perry Ave, Bedford Park, Bronx – 54 unique complaints (204 raw)
- 399 Chambers St, Battery Park City, Manhattan – 54 unique complaints (90 raw)
- 30 Buchanan Pl, University Heights, Bronx – 53 unique complaints (181 raw)
- 1025 Boynton Ave, Soundview, Bronx – 52 unique complaints (325 raw)
- 147-37 Roosevelt Ave, Murray Hill, Queens – 52 unique complaints (116 raw)
- 491 E 52nd St, Rugby / Remsen Village, Brooklyn – 51 unique complaints (53 raw)
- 2090 E Tremont Ave, Parkchester, Bronx – 49 unique complaints (292 raw)
- 2380 Broadway, Upper West Side, Manhattan – 49 unique complaints (260 raw)
How does the NYC “Heat Season” work?
From October 1st through May 31 landlords are required to provide heat for all tenants. The requirements are pretty low:
- Between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, if the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, the inside temperature is required to be at least 68 degrees F
- Between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, if the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees, the inside temperature is required to be at least 55 degrees F
What can I do?
If you find that your heat isn’t meeting these low minimum requirements, you should first reach out to your landlord. Certified Mail is recommended if it’s an ongoing issue, but I’ve found that text also helps keep a record of the issue and sometimes false promises. If this doesn’t work, calling 311 or visiting the online portal for creating complaints, allows you to make complaints, anonymously if you wish. An inspector from the NYC HPD will come to check the building for violations, usually within a few days, but from the looks of things, they may be backed up.
Regardless, be diligent. Repeated calls and texts to my own landlord has helped me get a little warmer. Usually just one call to 311 gets the message to a scroogey landlord that you know your rights.
Moving into a new place?
Use the NYC Housing Preservation & Developments’s tool to check the address of the building for past and open violations.