During CUNY’s 2018 winter break, Baruch College’s 1760 Third Avenue Residence Hall faced an extreme loss of heat after the dormitory’s boiler broke down. Heat was cut off for more than half of the rooms in the building, including the ones in which Baruch students were staying.
The boiler failing caused many of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning units in the building to go down.
Without these units, there was no chance of controlling the room’s temperature, which left many Baruch students without heat during some of the coldest weeks of the year, including the first week of January, where the average temperature in New York City was 16.4 degrees.
The rooms that students occupied were only at about 20 percent capacity during the winter break. This was due to some students studying abroad, going home for the break or graduating in the previous semester.
For the students who had stayed at the residence hall during the break, the loss of heat posed a serious dilemma, rendering it impossible for them to stay in their rooms. Some students wound up staying in friends' rooms for a short period of time.
Educational Housing Services, from whom Baruch leases floors for its dorms, had a few rooms that were already empty, and it was able to secure a few other available rooms to move students who were experiencing heat problems.
Eventually, every student without heat was provided with space heaters by EHS. Although this was a major improvement, Amber Makda, a Baruch student staying at the residence hall, and a former brand ambassador for EHS, said that she and her roommate had to "put blankets around the doors and windows because the draft was so bad, too."
Baruch’s Housing Services began working with EHS upon notification, taking the issue to the landlord of the building, the Chetrit Group. CUNY’s legal counsel and Baruch’s legal counsel became involved in helping push the issue further with Chetrit.
So far, 25 rooms out of about 30 have brand-new HVAC units installed. Edward Pena, assistant director of housing at Baruch, said there are a few reasons as to why it is taking time to completely update all the rooms.
One reason is that since the whole building was affected and not just the rooms rented by Baruch, EHS prioritizes the rooms that are the coldest and have had the longest need for new units. Another reason for the delay is that HVAC units are big and require a lot of time and manpower to install. This is why, Pena explained, there is no definitive date for when all the rooms in the building will be functioning again.
The start of a new semester typically brings new Baruch students looking to dorm. With the heating issue still not resolved, EHS was not willing to let any of these new students stay at 1760 Third Avenue. The group decided that the empty rooms in the residence hall would be reserved for the current residents in case any other problems occurred.
EHS instead offered new residents space in its Brooklyn Heights residence hall, the St. George Towers. This is one of the many residence locations EHS has across New York City. There was an effort to consolidate all the Baruch students onto one floor, but some students do have rooms on other floors.
The move to St. George was a quick decision by EHS and Baruch, and many students were told very late that they would be living in the Brooklyn location instead of the Upper East Side one. Some were even told the day before the move-in day.
However, no student was turned away from residing at a dorm. There were two students who did not want to live at St. George and requested to dorm at the Baruch Residence Hall. These students were made aware of the heating situation, and once they knew what they were requesting, the students were granted permission to stay at 1760 Third Avenue. Though the cost of living per semester is higher at St. George, EHS cross-honored the price of the Upper East Side residence hall, which is $7,297 per semester.
There are currently 32 Baruch students living at St. George, as well as the senior resident assistant. St. George boasts the same amenities as 1760 Third Avenue, if not more. The students have access to 24-hour kitchen facilities, free membership to the gym next door and the same commute time to Baruch.
Although the heating in some rooms at 1760 Third Avenue has been repaired since the students moved into St. George, these students have not been brought back to the Baruch Residence Hall because it would disrupt them mid-semester.
While these students are encouraged to build a community at St. George, they are also welcome to attend any events being held in 1760 Third Avenue.