Residents dress for the outdoors even while indoors, wearing scarves and hats. They use the stove as if it were a fireplace, huddling around it with the burners aflame and the oven turned on. They wash up in the mornings with water heated in pots. At night, the temperature drops to the low 30s in the stairways and hovers in the 40s and 50s in the rooms.
Without Heat in the Bronx, Making Do in the Cold
In one living room, the television set is the only source of light after sunset, because the light fixture in the ceiling is broken. In one kitchen, a chunk of the ceiling has fallen. In a bedroom, a wide swath of greenish-black mold covers a wall. Space heaters sit on rickety milk crates and chairs. The roof leaks.
Theirs is a dismal, surreal housing arrangement that seems as much out of Kafka as Dickens. While Mr. Wren and other tenants live heat-free, they also live rent-free. Several residents said they had not paid rent in months because of the conditions. No one uses a key to get into the building because the front door, which appears to be broken, is always open, day and night. No one seems to know who the landlord is these days.
And though the building has not had heat or hot water, it does have a super, a sad-faced man who lives in the building. The man, who did not want to give his name, says he keeps the place up as best he can, but he does not get paid. He said there had been no heat because the oil tank in the boiler room had been empty for weeks.
“I can’t face those people,” he said of the tenants. “They don’t have no service. It’s terrible, and there’s nothing I can do.”
Life in the building is a strange mixture of normalcy and squalor. Mail arrives regularly. The property has electricity and is wired for cable television service, and from the outside looks much like the other buildings in this working-class Bronx neighborhood east of the Grand Concourse. It is on a clean, freshly paved stretch of Morris Avenue, across the street from a 24-hour liquor store and a few steps from a firehouse draped in Christmas lights.
Yet, 117 years after Jacob A. Riis called attention to tenement slums in “How the Other Half Lives,” the problems at 1277 Morris Avenue illustrate how even in today’s thriving real estate market some buildings can fall into a kind of 19th-century state of disrepair.
The kitchen was warm because the oven was on. Every time the apartment door opened, the carbon monoxide detector beeped in the stairway outside.
Mr. Hall drives a truck for a coffee company, and in the evenings looks after his daughter, Tamisha Walden Hall, 21, who, like Mr. Hardy’s brother, has cerebral palsy. He worries about her health, and is concerned that the government might take his daughter away from him because of the state of the building.
No one deserves to live like this. Maybe Bloomberg could take a break from acting presidential and take care of this mess. It will come back to haunt him.
Photo from NY Times