Bill aims to increase heat in NYC apartment buildings after deadly Bronx fire

TREMONT, Bronx (WABC) — An effort is underway to require apartment building owners in New York City to turn up the heat during the coldest months of the year to help prevent devastating fires.

January’s deadly fire that killed 17 people in the Bronx started with a heater.

A new bill in council aims to eliminate the need for space heaters which are responsible for at least nine fires in the city so far this year.

The council member behind it says she’s heard from residents across the city, who are at the mercy of their landlords with inadequate and insufficient heating.

“For years and generations they had to use their ovens and stoves and not just space heaters to keep warm,” said Brooklyn council member Crystal Hudson.

His bill would increase minimum requirements for homeowners from 68 to 70 degrees, and overnight from 62 to 66 degrees.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents thousands of landlords in the city, says:

“Any mandatory increase in minimum heating temperatures would contradict Local Law 97 and New York’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goal.”

But Hudson says asking for a little more heat doesn’t mean buildings shouldn’t use energy more efficiently or sustainably.

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“I am committed to ensuring that we get to 100% renewable energy,” Hudson said.

Monday’s weather was very similar to that bitterly cold January day when the fire broke out in the Bronx, and a resident of the building told Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon that there was enough heat since the tragedy, but others in nearby buildings say they could use more heat on a day like this.

“You must be bundled up inside the house right now. That’s how cold it gets,” Bronx resident Tyrone Carter said.

311 regularly receives heat complaints from Elizabeth Fermin, who says her landlord doesn’t provide the current minimum and the heat only seems adequate when inspectors show up.

“I said why don’t you come, surprise, like afternoon or night so you can see how we’re in the building, frozen, everyone,” Fermin said.

“Of course, we need to do a lot more to enforce our heating laws,” said Bronx councilman Oswaldo Feliz.

The council member representing this district says there are bills pending for this as well, both state and federal. But this bill is an important piece.

“Even two more degrees of heat will save lives and prevent tragedies like the one we saw on that vile Sunday morning in the Bronx,” Feliz said.

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