By Sabina Mollot
There’s no question this winter in New York City has been a particularly brutal one, up until last week, anyway.
As always, this has led to some heat complaints in residential buildings across the city. As Town & Village recently reported, a study conducted by RentHop showed that on the week of the “bomb cyclone” snowstorm on January 4, the citywide average for complaints about lack of heat in a neighborhood was 39.5 unique complaints per 1,000 apartments (57.3 including duplicate complaints).
In Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that week, there were 8.9 complaints per 1,000 units in Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village or 93 actual complaints (99 including duplicates). However, based on management’s figures, heat complaints have been decreasing in recent years.
This, StuyTown Property Services spokesperson Paula Chirhart said, is due to a few engineering improvements made to the 70-year-old complex’s heating system as well as nonstop micromanaging of said system.
That system includes the ability to monitor both indoor temperatures of buildings and the grounds in real time, through hundreds of digital sensors around the property. The sensors are monitored remotely by SPS engineers.
The sensors control valves on the pipes that feed steam into apartments. The valves open and close based on the temperature readings collected inside apartments from the sensors. This is why residents will notice that the pipes in their apartments are sometimes cold as the valves close when the temperature reaches 72 degrees during the day, and 68 degrees at night. When the sensors read that the temperature has dipped below those points, the valves will open and feed steam into the apartments again. So the cold pipes don’t mean the heat isn’t working.
Before the heat got distributed this way, the heat in ST/PCV was on all the time in the winter and some apartments would get so hot residents would have to open their windows.
Another upgrade to the heat system, which has been getting made over the past couple of years, is the installation of mechanically-operated louvers in elevator shafts, elevator lobby vents and stairwells. These louvers help prevent heat from escaping via openings at the top of buildings.
Management has said that along with hearing fewer complaints about heat due to the improvements, the changes to the system have also reduced the property’s energy usage.
However, since there are still some tenants who have said they feel too cold in their apartments this season due to no heat or not enough, management advises calling resident services when this happens.
The ST-PCV Tenants Association, which also always hears at least some heat complaints from residents each year, agrees. TA President Susan Steinberg told Town & Village she recently got a guided tour of the heat system, and it appears to be working fine.
Still, since she’s aware of several complaints made on the Tenants Association’s Facebook page about lack of heat, she recommended that chilly tenants ask the resident services department for a thermometer and then advising management of what the reading says.
“They need to hear from individual tenants,” she said. “It’s a high-quality system, but it’s an automated system.”
Meanwhile, a related, well-known problem in Stuy Town — pipes that bang and clang, sometimes at odd hours — has proven to be more elusive to engineers’ tweaking.
As one woman, who also told us her apartment hasn’t had enough heat this winter, described it, “It feels like the ceiling’s going to fall on your head. It’s the craziest, loudest noise. And at 4 o’clock in the morning, it’s not so nice.”
Management has said mechanical issues can cause the hammer-like noise and when it’s reported, engineers will respond to the noise complaints and make adjustments.
But, noted Chirhart, “The simple expansion of the steam pipes from cold to warm will periodically create noise.”
Steinberg said she’s been hearing fewer complaints about the pipes these days, but said if it happens often, residents should report that to management as well.