Hot water shortage wreaking havoc on tenants' routines

Hot water shortage wreaking havoc on tenants' routines

January 07, 2008  JJ

HOBOKEN - Residents of the city's public housing complex have resorted to bathing in kitchen sinks, getting up at 4 a.m. to shower and using paper plates due to chronic hot water shortages that have lasted nearly three months.

Tenants of 311 Harrison St. and 310 Jackson St. said there is no hot water in the early morning when people are trying to shower for work and school. Hot water returns in the late morning and afternoon, but by 6 p.m. the water is ice cold after residents return and compete for the limited supplies.

Arlette Braxton gives her 5-year-old grandson "baths" in the kitchen sink using water heated on the stove; she sends her 13-year-old grandson to her sister's house down the street to bathe. Since there's no hot water to wash dishes, she uses disposable plates and utensils, and cleans her pots by heating water in them.

Barbara Reyes and her 11-year-old daughter get up at 4 a.m. to take showers and then go back to sleep.

"If you don't get a shower early in the morning, forget about it," said tenant Pam Lupo.

The problems began after the Hoboken Housing Authority installed new boilers throughout the housing complex last fall, said Robert DiVincent, the authority's interim executive director. Water shortages developed only in 311 Harrison St. and 310 Jackson St. because the buildings are larger than the rest and couldn't meet tenant demand.

DiVincent said the authority has steadily been working on the problem but that as each glitch was fixed that officials thought would solve the problem, another one would arise.

DiVincent said he apologizes for the amount of time it's taken to make repairs.

"There's a process you need to follow when you're dealing with government dollars," said DiVincent. "You have to do a proper investigation. I don't want to just throw money at a problem and not solve it."

On Jan. 2, the Department of Health and Human Services gave the housing authority an official warning, giving them until Friday to fix the problem, a deadline DiVincent says the authority should have no problem meeting, since the authority is adding additional hot water storage tanks next week.

Tenants stress that they understand DiVincent is doing his best to solve the problem.

"This place has come a long way because of Bob DiVincent," said Braxton. "I believe he's trying, but repairs need to be made faster."

"The man has never ignored anyone's phone call," agreed Lupo, "but let's get it together."

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