When we moved in to this apartment a little over a month ago we had a few cold days but the heat hadn’t been turned on yet. We kept all the windows closed.

One of the first things I noticed when we moved in was that work was being done on the boiler, it looked like they were rebuilding the whole thing, a boiler company truck was parked out front everyday for almost two weeks and there was a lot of welding and banging going on. It was a race against the cold weather and the mandatory turning on of the heat.

It did come on, and the first night the heat was on it was so hot in the apartment (85°) we had to open some of the windows, lest we sweat to death. The heat even came on in the middle of the night, something most landlords won’t do.

When I worked at 144, the boiler was slaved to a computer that made sure the heat did not come on at night. It would stop somewhere around 11PM and kick in again at 6AM. If somebody complained the agent would say, “tell them to put on a sweater. It’s 68° in their apartment, and that’s all we need to give them.” The agent knew it was 68° in the apartments because there were sensors in selected apartments to monitor the temperature, and he got email alerts.
I always wanted to say, “You should tell them,” but I would have lost my job a lot sooner.

There was one woman, the un-serene yoga teacher who would call down to the front desk and shriek, “we’re cold up here! Send up some heat RIGHT NOW!”
And I would always say, “yes, right away, immediately!”

Of course there was nothing I could do, the whole system is on automatic, and it was up to the super to go down and fiddle with the boiler and risk getting yelled at by the management company’s chief engineer, who got an email every time someone messed with the boiler. I’m really glad I don’t have to listen to that woman’s shrill strident voice complaining about how cold she is anymore.

Last night, the coldest night of the year so far, was the first time the heat did not come on in our apartment. The windows were shut and stayed shut. There was hot water, so I knew the boiler was working, but the radiators and riser pipes in the kitchen and bathroom were ice cold.

The down pipe.

The down pipe.

When I got home yesterday afternoon I noticed a couple of Con Edison trucks outside, part of the boiler upgrade I believe was converting to gas from number 2 bunker oil. When the heat didn’t come on, I figured they’d slaved it to the computer and we’d get heat in the morning. We have a very warm quilt and an even warmer down comforter, so it was no big deal, and besides, the chill air puts you to sleep faster than a hot room.


When I awoke this morning it was chilly as hell, 71° in the bedroom (there is a thermometer on my bedroom clock) and I remembered the unfeeling agent’s proclamation of “you’re getting 68°.” Hmm.

At six as I was in the living room doing my morning ritual of hot Bragg’s apple cider vinegar followed by coffee and a banana and waited patiently for the hissing and banging that announced the heat coming up to my floor. All I got were a few feeble burps and faint clangs from the radiator in the corner of the room. I could hear the wind outside and feel the draft from the edges of the window just inches from my perch on the couch. I got up and put my hand on the radiator, and it was ice cold. I tried the pipe in the kitchen and that was cold too. I went into the bathroom to do the same thing, and almost burned my hand on the pipe.

The pipe that almost burned me.

The pipe that almost burned me.

So, the heat was on, but it wasn’t getting to the radiators or the return pipe in the kitchen. I had a problem.
I checked the radiators and they were warm near the valves, but nowhere else. I was going to have to call the super.

In our old apartment we had a burner right in our apartment, and a thermostat to control it. No mater how high I set that thermostat, it was always cold in the apartment. The burner was connected to baseboard heating elements, and they get hot water, 200° at the most, and that does not compete with a steam radiator.

Having our own burner meant paying for our own heat, and when the apartment is as drafty as that one was, it can get expensive. So now our expenses are down, but I’m cold again and can’t even turn on the heat myself the way I used to be able to, no matter how weak it was.

I called Pedro, our super at 8AM. He said, “OK, I’ll call the owner and she can call the company to fix the boiler.” I didn’t want to say it seemed the boiler was working fine; it’s the radiators in my apartment that have a problem.

Maybe it's the valves.

Maybe it’s the valves.

I’ll have to wait and see if they can fix it, but I hope it happens before tonight.

I love the fact that I don’t have to wear a hoodie at home anymore; I don’t love the fact that I have to depend on someone else to fix things. I guess I’ll have to be patient.

You know what else I love? Walking through dead leaves the way I used to do as a kid. I haven’t done that in a long time, there were no dead leaves on Broadway in Brooklyn, since there were no trees. There are plenty of dead leaves here.
This is a picture I took the other day of me walking through the dead leaves by the Trinity Church cemetery around the corner:

Walking in the leaves.

Walking in the leaves.

I love the sound the leaves make as I shuffle my feet through them. It’s the small things in life, I guess.

About xaviertrevino

I like to write, take things apart and put them back together. Also our cat Snookie, turtles, and my lovely wife Danusia.
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1 Response to STEAM HEAT

  1. mbcoudal says:

    I like the crunch of dead leaves too.

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