New York City’s Many Fire Trap Apartments

The cold fact is New York City is failing to protect its citizens.  A recent fire ended in tragedy and has helped expose some of the nastier habits of city inspectors.  While the practice of illegal conversions is getting some play in the press, another deadly hazard is not: The combination of gas stoves and insufficient heat.  My first apartment in NYC had almost no heat in the winter.  Exploring on HPD’s site allowed me to see violations and complaints for the past few years.  Every winter – heating issues.  The situation played out the same each time:

  1.  I’d call the city
  2. The city would call the super
  3. The super would pump up the heat
  4. The city would send an inspector
  5. The inspector would find nothing wrong

The first time the inspector came by, the super hadn’t reacted fast enough, and we both confirmed a violation.  Additionally, the inspector informed me the wall by the door to the apartment had been illegally setup, and was a fire hazard.  Subsequent calls to the city revealed no violation had been recorded, and each subsequent visit by an inspector went through the above steps.  Eventually I broke my lease and moved out.  However some of the older residents did not have that luxury – and remain.

I spoke to one such resident – who had been in the apartment for over 20 years (and hence was paying an extremely low rent).  She mentioned the heat issue had been going on every single winter she had spent at the property.  She compensated by turning on her oven and opening the door.  In addition to creating a Carbon Monoxide hazard, a gas oven is an especially problematic source of heat for an apartment.  My former neighbor was convinced the New York Housing Department was corrupt.

As far as I know, the apartment still has heating issues.  Visits to HPD’s site to check up on the property now return NO violations or complaints for the past few years – which I know to be false having provided a few of those complaints myself.  Whether this is the result of corruption, malfeasance, or incompetence the end result is same: New Yorkers needlessly suffering and needlessly at risk.


Friendly Reading

Brad sizes up the bailout (emphasis mine):

First of all, I think we should pay attention to how things are being worded. First of all, this is a bailout. The definition of a bailout, in this day and age, is “to rescue from financial distress”. But if you look at the important part of that work, being “bail”, you get a better picture of how this is going to play out.

As a verb, bail means “to clear (water) from a boat by dipping and throwing over the side“. This only solves the problem of water in the boat. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of how the water got in the boat, and if you don’t keep bailing then your boat is going to sink.

This ought to give us pause: “and if you don’t keep bailing then your boat is going to sink”.

Information overload doesn’t mean we absorb enough to feel confident about our choices.  Marco explains:

I have many other things I’d rather do than watch MSNBC for 4 hours every day to catch all the sound bites.  I’m not going to spend my time verifying that John McCain has actually voted the same as George Bush 90% of the time.

By the end of the post, his position comes across pretty damn confident:

John McCain is disingenuous to the point where he comes across as an asshole.  He smiles at inappropriate times.  He tries to talk intelligently about things he doesn’t know about.  He makes rash and ill-advised decisions just to get himself ahead (Who the effing hell is Sarah Palin?!!)  In any other circumstance, these things would make you deeply distrust a person.  By contrast, Barack has presented himself as straightforward, trustworthy, consistent and genuine.

In short, I’m voting for Barack Obama because he has convinced me that he has integrity. And in a world full of dishonesty and corruption, that’s worth a whole hell of a lot.

I think knowing there is so much information out there produces enough anxiety to make us forget that we do have enough knowledge to form solid opinions and talk about them intelligently.

Over at Daisy and Emily’s, Five Links That Are Important:

1. Grassroots preparation for more ICE raids, via ImmigrationProf Blog.

2. Gardasil to be made mandatory for U.S. immigrants?

3. “50 Arrested as ADAPT Takes Affordable, Accessible Housing Crisis to Congress.”

4. Two posts at Echidne of the Snakes on the Wall Street bailout. Echidne recommends reading about this alongside Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. As someone doing just that, I couldn’t second that recommendation more eagerly.

5. Margaret Cho disappoints.

Finally Adam lays into a particularly annoying Republican tendency:

It never fails to aggravate me when Republicans or any one for that matter try to play off something as outrageous as this Palin quote by playing the blame game.

This Palin quote comes off as something you would read on a high school exam from some kid that was grabbing at straws and promptly write an F next to. I guess throwing in some out of context, nonsensical, intelligent-sounding words will work to convince some voters that you know what you are talking about.

We’ve been seeing a lot of that lately with Palin.