Lack of Heat, No Gas at Popular Off-Campus Housing Location

by JACK MELANSONSenior Writer

Living in the Bronx can come with challenges, and for residents of 3804 Greystone Avenue, the challenges are especially daunting.

The building is home to not just Manhattan College students, but also families with young children and elderly residents, who collectively have been living without cooking gas or stable heat.

According to residents, these issues have persisted since September.

“It has been four months, since September, I remember it was a Friday that it started,” said Linda Waldstein, a 40-year resident of 3804 Greystone. “We know the building is about 100 years old so we know the building hasn’t been attended to, that just makes sense.”

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Linda Waldstein, a 40 year resident of the building, spoke at the press conference about the declining conditions of the building in recent years. GABRIELLA DEPINHO / THE QUADRANGLE

As a response to this issue, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz paired with Council Member Andrew Cohen on Thursday, Jan. 31. to “bring attention to the fact that residents have been without cooking gas since September of 2018,” according to the press conference’s official notice.

“It’s really cold out, and actually it’s cold inside as well,” said Dinowitz in his opening statement.

“We’re really angry that this building has not had cooking gas since September [and] it’s not likely that they’re going to have it in the immediate future. We think some work has finally been done but in the meanwhile, the people that live here have had to live in substandard conditions. Not only the gas by the way, they’ve had inadequate heat.”

Reaching the landlord has brought uncertainty for some.

“[When we complain] the landlord says, ‘I know,’ ‘we’re taking care of it,’ but that’s it. You never get anything that definitive,” said Waldstein.

And for others, it’s simply been unpleasant.

  “I have reached out to the landlord once and he was not very nice. I told him about all of our issues and he did not seem like he cared. I told him that if nothing got fixed then we would refuse to pay rent. He then told me that he would take us to court. I have not reached out to him since that phone call,” said Sydney Mattera, a resident and Manhattan College student.

“I saw a letter posted in the lobby how an Assemblyman from NYC was trying to come in contact with [the landlord], but he was ignoring his phone calls and emails.”

Cohen confirmed Mattera’s statement.

“The landlord doesn’t respond, the managing people, they do not respond and it’s outrageous,” said Cohen.

This is increasingly troublesome for Waldstein.

“I don’t think this landlord is very responsive. [Especially] if he’s not even calling the assembly people and congressional people back,” she said.

The families of 3804 Greystone may have it the hardest.

“I’m one individual, I can get by, but I see my neighbors – look at the children, the infants – they have to cook, they have to make a meal,” said Waldstein. “You can’t make a meal on a small little hot plate or you’re going out, you’re buying food, your bills are going up and then we’re still paying the rent.”

Receiving a hot plate was no easy task either.

“We received a hot plate from the super[intendent] when we heard that others had them. However, it was not known to us that they were giving them out until about two weeks after the gas was stopped, which was September 14,” said Mattera, “The people that we know in the building do have hot plates. I am unsure about people who do not have one.”

Local democratic leader Eric Dinowitz questioned whether these residents should continue to pay their rent.

“People are eating out two or three meals a day, who can afford that? Particularly when they’re still paying their full rent,” said Eric Dinowitz.

“People should not be paying the rent when they’re not getting heat, gas, and ways to keep their children safe.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Cohen and Dinowitz assured the crowd that actions have been taken on their behalf.

“It really is outrageous. The only thing that probably happens in this building is the rent bill goes out… Our office has arranged for legal services,” said Cohen. “People need to be able to feed their children and cook in their own home. It’s unacceptable and we want the landlord to hear us loud and clear.”

Assemblyman Dinowitz continued.

“We’ve advised tenants that they can come to the councilman’s office or to my office. We can file rent decrease complaints with the state housing agency,” he said. “The [residents are] entitled to that.”

Manhattan College students are likely paying the most to live in these poor conditions.

“There are 39 apartments in the building [and] maybe a few [are] old rent-controlled apartments,” said Waldstein. “The students here are probably paying market value.”

This is due to a greater turnover amongst the student population in the building, according to Dinowitz.

“The students from Manhattan College, I would guess, would be paying more [than the non-student residents],” said Dinowitz. “Their apartments are market rate.”

Mattera and her four roommates are getting their first taste of living of living off-campus this school year and it’s been costly.

“Our rent is $2,740, which is only because we knew the girls that lived here before us and we got the realtor to bargain with us,” said Mattera. “There are five people living in the apartment, with four bedrooms, so two girls share one room, both paying $512, and the three in their own room pay $572 each.”

Without cooking gas or adequate heat, off-campus living has been much harder than expected.

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Camera crews from ABC and Fox showed up to the press conference hosted by Assemblyman Dinowitz and Councilman Cohen.

“This inconvenienced me personally, along with my roommates, since we moved off-campus with the intentions of saving money for housing. The rent seemed reasonable and we did very well on groceries,” said Mattera. Once the gas went out, we were unable to cook anything. This turned into ordering out from delis and restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It turned more into a huge expense rather than a saving. The amount of money spent on ordering out became burdensome and unhealthy.”

Needless to say, it’s been a bad taste.

“Our apartment is freezing, we have to be under blankets constantly,” said Abby Crowell, another 3804 resident and Manhattan College student. “It’s been really tough, we can’t cook so we’ve been spending [money on] meals at the deli. It’s really sad. This is my first time living in an apartment and this is making me not want to do it again because this is what I’m going to expect for the rest of my life.”

Mattera and Crowell’s apartment was 13 degrees below regulation on January 31. Mattera’s bedroom, on the west facing side of building, was 55 degrees.

“As far as the heat in the apartment, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., they have to have the temperature at 68 degrees. After 10 p.m. they need to keep the temperature at 62 degrees,” said Dinowitz. “That is no way to live. The [residents] want the services that they’re entitled to under the lease and under the law.”

Because of this, health issues are now a constant concern for the families affected.

“Our parents are concerned for our health, since they know that our diets only consist of deli sandwiches and microwavable macaroni and cheese,” said Mattera. “They want their children to be comfortable and safe, not freezing and starving, with no meal plan on campus anymore.”

Although no clear solution has been brought to the table, Dinowitz reassured the 3804 residents that he will not stand for these conditions.

“People in this building, and people in New York City shouldn’t have to live this way,” said Dinowitz. “We are sick and tired of it.”

Editor’s note: Abby Crowell is a member of the Quadrangle Masthead.