The bomb cyclone on Jan. 4 blanketed large parts of the northeast with snow and resulted in bitter cold temperatures and high-speed winds. It also left many apartments without heat and hot water like the Woodside Houses, which experienced a boiler outage.
RentHop, a real estate search engine, compiled data to analyze what neighborhoods and addresses reported the most heat-related complaints in 2018.
The New York City heat season lasts from Oct. 1 through May 31 when landlords are required to provide heat to tenants if the weather outside falls below a certain temperature.
RentHop has been keeping track of complaints since 2010 and found that the first week of 2018 broke a record — there were nearly as many heat complaints in the first week of 2018 as there were in the past three years’ first weeks combined.
Neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan were featured prominently on the list and Queens does not show up until the 34th slot when Hollis appears. Shane Leese, the data scientist who worked on the study, broke down the complaints in three ways: raw complaints, de-duped complaints that removed repeated calls to 311 by the same tenant and normalized complaints.
According to Leese, looking at the normalized complaints is “the fairest way” to analyze what neighborhoods had the most complaints this year (up to Jan. 7). The data point represents unique complaints per 1,000 rental units. A more populated neighborhood would obviously record more complaints so normalized complaints account for this issue.
Residents in Hollis, according to 311 data, reported 61 complaints during the heat season in 2018 compared to 45 last heat season. Since the current heat season doesn’t end until May of this year, there has already been a 34.7 percent increase in the number of complaints and that percentage will probably rise.
Laurelton is ranked 46 on the list with 51.5 complaints this heat season compared to 44.7 in 2016-2017, a 15.3 percent increase.
The neighborhood of Bayswater in Far Rockaway recorded 47.5 complaints, an 18 percent increase since 2017, while South Jamaica and St. Albans recorded 46 and 46.1 complaints this heat season, respectively.
The study also found that complaints are less common as rents rise. In Flushing, where the median rent is $1,800 a total of 25 complaints per 1,000 rental units were recorded this year. The median rent in Hollis, where the most complaints in Queens were recorded, is $1,650.
Some neighborhoods also saw a dramatic increase in heat complaints this season. In Old Astoria, the northernmost portion of the neighborhood, heat complaints jumped 90.2 percent, from 11.6 during the last heat season to 22 complaints during the heat season in 2018.
Queensboro Hill, a section of Flushing, saw a 116 percent spike in complaints from 9.3 during the last heat season to 20.2 this year.
The study also shows the top heat complaints by address and the property at 72-10 41st Ave. in Elmhurst received 155 complaints this year compared to 195 last year.
The rental building at 89-21 Elmhurst Ave. received 1,298 complaints this heat season compared to 483 last heat season.
While working on this study, Leese found that many of the same apartment buildings keep showing up on his lists year after year.
“The same landlords in the same areas still aren’t adequately heating their buildings, and the same Department of Housing isn’t doing enough to make sure these people aren’t cold,” he said in the study.
NYCHA tenants were particularly vulnerable during the bomb cycle with more than 6,500 units losing access to heat and hot water. A New York Post report found that the city lost approximately 100 boiler repair employees with 243 heating technicians as of Dec. 29 compared to 347 that were allocated in the city budget.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said that much of the boiler equipment is decades old and that heating technicians are not qualified to maintain new boilers installed at several NYCHA complexes. The city is currently looking to hire technicians who have experience with the new technology, he told the Post.