Residents complain of excessive heat

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

This summer’s heat wave has left some residents of the CHAI apartment building frustrated with building managers they say are not doing enough to keep residents cool.

The residents of the fourth floor of Building H of the CHAI apartment buildings say that the lack of air conditioning in the fourth-floor hallway and elevator in their building create extremely high temperatures, making it difficult to come and go from their apartments, which are air conditioned.

“It’s a very bad situation when it’s this kind of weather, over 90 or 100 degrees outside,” said Yuliya Leshchinkaya, 72, who lives on the fourth floor of Building H.

“Every summer it gets bad, but this one is very, very hot,” she said.

In an interview with the Jewish Light, Janet Weinberg, executive director of CHAI/Covenant House, said that the staff and management of CHAI/Covenant House care deeply for residents, and are trying their best to keep residents cool.

“We’ve had a large number of days that have been very hot, and it’s uncomfortable out there, but we did put in large fans to circulate the air so it’s not unbearable, and that’s what we could do short term until we can figure out what can be done,” Weinberg said. “It’s basically only that floor that has the issue, because it’s right below the roof.”

Leshchinkaya and her neighbor, Mark Granovsky, 78, wrote a letter to building managers asking them to help keep the hallways cool. Residents from a total of eight apartments on the fourth floor of Building H signed their names to the letter. Many of the residents do not speak English, so Leshchinskaya helped translate from Russian to English.

“We complained many times, this year and other years,” Granovsky said through the translator. “This year we sent a letter, hoping something would be done,” he said.

Maria Spektor, another resident on the fourth floor, said, with Leshchinkaya translating, that during the hottest days, she has to avoid leaving the apartment. “If I come out into the corridor, I feel faint,” she said.

The residents wrote in a letter to Weinberg, “The residents of your building are elderly. It is a serious threat to their health to walk through this upper floor hallway and use the elevator. The temperature outside is in the high 90s and it’s even hotter inside.”

Weinberg responded to the residents in letter on Aug. 10. She said building management had placed fans to help circulate air on the fourth floor, and that once the heat breaks, an engineer will be able to enter the building’s attic to determine if it is feasible to add air conditioning to the existing auxiliary heat units.

The apartment complex was built in 1981, and like many low- income housing complexes, it was built without air conditioning in the hallway, she said. “Going backward with any kind of system-wide issue is a bit more complicated than buying an air conditioner to put in the window. That wouldn’t really circulate and that wouldn’t really solve the problem,” Weinberg said.

“The question is, can something be done in the attic to change the problem? But it’s been too hot to even get an engineer in there to look around and see if there’s enough space and what can be done…and if there is a solution, how expensive that solution will be,” she said.

As a subsidized housing facility, CHAI/Covenant House provides 434 apartments for seniors and the mobility-impaired. Most residents pay 30 percent of their income as rent, and residents without an income pay a minimum of $25 a month for rent. Weinberg said residents do not pay for utilities, and that most low income housing does not include air conditioning in the hallways.

“I think if anyone goes through that building they will see that we have gone out of our way to make sure that it’s maintained at the highest

standard and we take pride in what we do,” Weinberg said. “We’re sorry for the heat, and we know they’re uncomfortable but there’s not an apartment there that the air conditioning doesn’t work, or is not fixed right away if there is a problem.”

Residents say that while building managers have placed large fans in the hallway near the elevator, it does little to alleviate the heat.

“It’s nothing. It just blows the hot air around,” Granovsky said.

Down the hall, resident Anna Pugachev said she does little but sit in her wheelchair in front of a fan her son bought for her.

Leshcinskaya said that even though her air conditioning works, in the afternoons when the sun is out, shining into her west-facing apartment, the temperature is still often in the mid-80s.

“We turn on our ceiling fans and try to do as little as we can. My husband doesn’t even want to walk downstairs and across the building to get the mail,” Leshcinskaya said.

“On TV, everybody talks, asks for help. We did that, and we’ve gotten nothing,” she said. “We pay rent; we are old people. They should do something about this.”

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