Upgraded heat system leads to fewer complaints in ST/PCV

Stuyvesant Town on a recent winter day (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

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.

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7 thoughts on “Upgraded heat system leads to fewer complaints in ST/PCV

  1. I agree that this is hog-wash.

    I have lived here for 37 years and the heating system is more irratic and non-functioning than ever. I have a 3 bedoom apartment and 100% of the time, only my oddball 3rd bedroom’s steam pipe is warm when the entire balance of the apartment has stone cold steam pipes! I call and call and suddenly the cold pipes warm up. The clanking is endless and does not last long enough for service to come over and hear it. Let alone at 5am!

    Suddenly last week we all receive a high-priced glossy pamphlet under our door explaining this new heating system, that I think is at least 5 years old now!!!! Crazy…did we receive an MCI for the new and improved heating system or is it in the pipeline soon to come?

    In my personal apartment experience, the new and improved heating system is inferior to the old one. I don’t mind the clanking, but I do mind reading a thermometer for “ambient” temperature (that is placed in the middle of a room) and discovering that my chilliness is due to a 64′ daytime reading.

    Back in the day, we used to live in t-shirts and shorts in the winter as well as keep windows open, just to keep semi comfortable. Now we wear sweaters and long-johns under our pants and sleep with 3 blankets.

    Not sure where the happy medium is, but being cold indoors in the winter in ST is not it. And this is the 1st winter in my adult life where I have had 3 relapses of a bad cold/flu/pneumonia since Dec 27. And I am never sick!!!

    Thank you.

  2. For a truer picture of the heating problems in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, T&V should have reached out to more of the tenants who say their apartments are cold and have been complaining for MONTHS about the lack of heat on the STPCV Tenants Association’s Facebook page. They could easily have been contacted via Facebook by the author of this article. I have spoken with several tenants in my building and other buildings and we all agree that management’s “engineering improvements” to the heating system were done at the expense of tenants’ warmth, comfort and safety to save the owners money by reducing the property’s energy costs. There is simply no question that what management has done to the heating system has made things worse for the many of us who live here in cold apartments. Management, apparently with the help of T&V, is trying to spin the lack of heat situation in its favor, but those of us who aren’t getting enough heat know better. While management recently spent a lot of money printing up a brochure that explained how the heating system works and distributed one to every tenant, most of the tenants I know who are living in chilly apartments were angered by this brochure. Does management really think that people who aren’t getting enough heat care how the heating system works? We want heat, not excuses or explanations for why we aren’t getting enough. Everyone knows that the absurd way the heating system works is the very reason why we’re cold. Having temperature sensors located in a few apartments scattered throughout each building that dictate how much heat all the other apartments in the building get is crazy. If the people living in the apartments with temperature sensors are cooking or using space heaters BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH HEAT AND ARE COLD, the sensors will indicate that those apartments are sufficiently warm – which they would be due to the heat being generated by the stoves, ovens and space heaters – and no heat will be provided to the other apartments controlled by that sensor. Given how many tenants living in STPCV are complaining about being cold, it’s clearly a ridiculous system that isn’t working and needs to be changed.

    • Completely agree. This story should be followed up with another story speaking with the swath of people who disagree with what this article says. Enough is enough with this management love on a very serious issue for many tenants.

      • Sabina Mollot, please follow up with another article and this time focus on the many tenants who aren’t getting heat because of the way our absurd heating system works. You’re losing credibility with many of your readers because of your superficial, management-friendly coverage of this very important issue. It’s time for you and this newspaper to do a deep dive into the heating problems in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. No one with an ounce of sense thinks that the kind of heating system we’re at the mercy of for several months a year is a reasonable or acceptable one.

  3. Pingback: Rat complaints are on the rise in NYC | Town & Village

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