2007-01-17 / Features

Heat Complaints Are Hot Cabinet Topic

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

After a weekend where temperatures rose to a record-breaking 72 degrees in New York, heat and hot water complaints seemed an unreasonable topic for discussion. "Unofficially, we haven't had a complaint yet," joked Vito Mustaciuolo at the January meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet.

Officially, cold weather heat requirements are in effect from October 1 through May 31- from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The outside temperature must be 50 degrees or lower, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the outside temperatures must be 40 degrees or below in order to register a complaint.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in December were six degrees above average and heat complaints in Queens made to 311 through December 27 fell some 2 percent, compared to last year. Throughout the city the number of complaints dropped by 27 percent.

For the period beginning October 1 through January 8, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) received 97,000 complaints citywide that were processed through 311, said Mustaciuolo, HPDs Associate Commissioner for Enforcement Services. However, he said, as many as half of those complaints are duplicates, meaning they came from the same building or from multi-family buildings. For the same period last year, there were 135,000 complaints. HPD is trying to prevent repeat calls with improved customer service.

In Queens, 12,419 heat-related complaints (including hot water) have been recorded, down from 16,500 for the same period last year, October 1 through January 8. So far, 508 violations have been written in Queens while 2,700 have been issued citywide.

Tenants are encouraged by HPD to report any problem with heat or hot water to 311 first. An acknowledgment of the complaint is mailed to the tenant and copy sent to the building owner as well. The inspection process involves a sixpoint check and the temperature in the coldest room is recorded. If heat is not adequate, a violation is issued.

In a second presentation, Cathleen Robinson reviewed the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), a federal program that assists eligible households in meeting their heating needs.

For the past 27 years, HEAP has provided grants for energy expenses to qualified senior citizen homeowners or tenants, and low-income families. Grants typically are between $40 and $50 for tenants with utility company bills and about $125 for homeowner fuel expenses said Robins, a HEAP specialist with the Department of Aging.

Despite the mild winter so far, heating oil prices have not dropped although the number of days where the temperature has been below 65 degrees has fallen by some 20 percent compared to the same period last winter.

To be eligible, an applicant must be 60 years of age or older, or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and living alone or with a spouse, or be the head of household receiving Social Security Disability Benefits and be a U.S. citizen or qualified alien.

Maximum monthly income guidelines for the following household sizes are:

+One, $1,764 +Two, $2,307 +Three, $2,850 +Four, $3,393

+Five, $3,936

Certain income deductions and exclusions may apply.

Apply early as limited funds are available. For information, call 311

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