My husband and I lived in East Harlem for 6 years. It was our first apartment together. It was great in the beginning because we had a place together.
Close proximity to NYC’s upper east side, great restaurants and bars, a 6 minute walk to Central Parks European gardens. Absolutely beautiful even if you had to walk through the ghetto to be there.
The sixth year, we had a deadly gas fume situation. I had gone to my parents house in the suburbs for Christmas and came back to gascious fumes. My husband had lived in such squaller that he didn’t even notice it. My other neighbors had lived the same way or were illegal and didn’t want to call the authorities for fear of being deported.
Growing up in the comfortable burbs and believing I deserved all America could offer, I called con Ed and was instructed to open all windows and wait outside. It was about 20 degrees. I called my landlord who told me not to call con Ed.
I already had and they showed up within the hour. A technician took a carbon monitor into the building and immediately evacuated everyone. There was a deadly amount of carbon trapped somewhere.
Here we were. All tenants, outside in the cold. The landlord sent someone to open the basement where the boilers were.
Con Ed turned everything off. Heat, hot water. The exhaust wasn’t working. The firemen were called. They did their own assessment, apparently if I hadn’t called, everyone in the building would’ve been dead within the hour.
This put in motion the most difficult time I’ve ever experienced in a NYC apartment. About a month of going back and forth with my landlord and con Ed. My landlord had hired her own technician who diagnosed the problem one way, where con Ed sent their own technician who diagnosed the problem another way.
New Year’s Eve, I got a call from con Ed to come to the building for a reassessment. This is after me calling con Ed constantly, it had been a week with no heat or gas, that means no hot water or stove.
They came, my landlord gave me the code to unlock the basement for them. I had so much hope. When the technician showed up I said “Thank God! We’ve all been without heat and hot water! There are children here! And elderly people!”
I let him in to the basement, not gonna go into what I saw down there. It looked like a hostage was being held there. I’ve pushed that down because I have no idea what to do about it.
He looked at the meters and told me there was nothing he could do.
“Can’t you just flip a switch!?” I pleaded.
No, he couldn’t. That was going to be a very cold New Years for all tenants, and would continue for weeks to come until the landlord’s technician and con Ed’s technician come come to an agreement of how to describe what the problem was.
Semantics! We were all freezing, microwaving three tupper ware containers of water in order to bath, all because of fucking semantics!
You’d think we’d not owe rent during this time but no, we did. We all did.
It eventually got sorted out. Cutting through red tape as we all lived like squatters paying thousands of dollars to be in close proximity to the upper east side and the European gardens it wasn’t safe to venture out to.
That’s New York! Damned if I don’t still love the bitch!