The big chill: Bum boilers put Westbeth in a deep freeze

A problem with the boilers at Westbeth Artists Housing put the place into a big chill for about 10 days.

BY KATE WALTER | Updated, Thurs., Jan. 17, 12:01 a.m.: Westbeth tenants were freezing all week with no relief expected until boiler parts arrive from Canada. Tenants in apartments on the river measured temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Apartments were very chilly and radiators were lukewarm while the temperature outside is in the 20s! Finally, heat was restored this Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was about 10 days that the place was without sufficient heat.

Westbeth, the famed affordable artists-housing complex, located on the square block bounded by West, Bethune, Washington and Bank Sts., was badly flooded by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. As part of the post-Sandy Build It Back project, the place’s boilers and burners were dismantled and reassembled in a new location with reduced flood risk. During this process it was necessary for Con Ed to temporarily shut off the natural-gas supply to the heating system. Until Con Ed is reconnected, Westbeth’s heat is being produced from fuel oil.

According to management, the fuel-oil equipment had not been used since Sandy and it’s in poor condition, so the boilers could not produce enough heat. Some tenants suspect the subcontractors damaged the equipment. Many tenants wonder why it took until January to realize this problem existed.

Management told tenants that the heating subcontractor ordered the parts to repair the malfunctioning oil-burning equipment. The parts were expected to arrive this week. Tenants are asking: Why couldn’t the shipment of these parts be expedited? Why not have them sent via overnight mail. As of Monday, management was saying the parts’ delivery was being “delayed by Customs.” Also, tenants want to know why wasn’t the Con Ed disconnect/reconnect completed before winter?

Westbeth is a NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community), with many senior citizens suffering from the cold. Residents are running space heaters (some supplied by management), and bundling up in sweaters and robes while awaiting the heat’s return. Wesbeth made an apartment with space heaters available as a warming site.

Fliers were posted in Westbeth informing tenants of the problem with the boilers. Over the weekend, an outraged tenant scrawled on it, “Call 311,” urging tenants to report the situation to the city.