This is the time of year when conversation in NYC frequently turns to heating. Ironically, in 2007 in the largest city in the United States where wealth abounds, people paying thousands of dollars per month in rent are still frequently concerned with getting adequate heat. During the heating season (October 1 through May 31), the City Housing Maintenance Code and State Multiple Dwelling Law requires the following:
* Between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., heat must register at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees;
* Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., heat must register at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees.
Do you see the problem here? Firstly, most people not from the arctic tundra find these minimum requirements much too low - 55 degrees inside after 10 PM? Fortunately, most tenants get much more than this. Secondly, these indoor temperatures are actually not measured. Boilers typically have basic settings - on and off (based on outdoor temperature); high, medium, low, etc. Unlike a private home where a thermostat regulates indoor temperature, no such mechanism exists in a multi-unit apartment building. So, there is either too much heat or too little. Many run too hot. Add to this that it is generally not a good idea to turn steam systems on and off (in the apartment) and that the shutoff valves frequently malfunction anyway, and it is not uncommon for New Yorkers to open windows in mid-winter. Thirdly, landlords are always looking to cut costs, but in NYC, rent control and rent stabilization laws exacerbate the situation. With rental income regulated (nearly 1 million apartments in NYC are still rent regulated), landlords are much more inclined to hold back services, repairs and upgrades. So, with rats gone wild, dogs (and horses) relieving themselves in the streets, all the city's trash put out on the streets on pickup days, the homeless living on the streets year round, drafts through old windows and not enough heat - New York can, at times, feel like the Dark Ages ...
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