The Heating Has Them Steamed

April 29, 2009|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Even when Mother Nature throws us for a loop - with, say, a string of 90-degree days in April - we can rely on the steady hand of bureaucracy. Or a bum valve. Or whatever it was that kept the heat on at a Mount Vernon senior citizens high-rise throughout this week's unseasonable heat wave, leaving hundreds of residents sweltering.

"The heat's got to stay on until May 10 or May 15," said Joe Warren of United Presbyterian Ministries, which owns the 16-story Westminster House at 524 N. Charles St.

He said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires heating systems in buildings with subsidized apartments to be kept operational until one of those dates. (He wasn't sure which.) The heat was turned way down, he said, but the steam-heat system in that building still puts out heat until it is completely shut down for the season.

"It's not like management's keeping the heat on," he said. "It has nothing to do with us."

So what does HUD have to say for itself? James Kelly, director of HUD's Baltimore field office, said HUD requires no such thing.

"There might be a city ordinance that says you have to have the ability to supply heat until date X," he said.

The city code does, indeed, require all landlords to supply heat from Oct. 1 through April 30, Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano said. So are there lots of cases of tenants roasting during unseasonable warm spells because of heating systems like the one Warren described?

"HVAC not being my area of expertise, I would hesitate to speculate, but it sounds like some kind of valve problem," Graziano said.

Whatever the reason, the heat continued to blow from vents Tuesday.

"It's hot as hell," said a female tenant who declined to give her name, saying she feared getting crosswise with building management. "It is terrible here."

She said she couldn't open windows in her apartment, across from the Walters, because there's too much traffic and dust.

Even Warren, who works on the first floor of the building, was complaining.

"We're hot down here, too," he said. "It's not real comfortable."

Making a real splash

If you need to get so drunk on a Sunday afternoon in Fells Point that you have to sleep it off right there at the end of Broadway Pier, and inevitably roll off into the water, at least have the good sense to do it in full view of a water taxi equipped with a doctor-passenger and an antique blanket.

Capt. Bob Crouthamel was piloting the water taxi Invictus toward Fort McHenry when one of his 30 passengers spotted someone in the water.

"I saw a kind of large white male floundering," Crouthamel said. "He was flailing around. ... I would guess the water temperature was in the high 40s at best. I knew we needed to get to him fairly promptly."

Crouthamel brought the boat around, instructed mate Bill Thompson to grab the life ring and chose some able-bodied passengers to help haul the guy aboard. Crouthamel said the man was clearly inebriated. "He was pretty numb," Crouthamel said.

They wrapped him in one of the Mylar blankets kept on board. By a stroke of luck, given that it was a 90-degree day, a passenger happened to have a conventional blanket, an antique she had presumably picked up at a nearby shop. She offered it up (though she did ask for it back once the man was deposited on shore).

A young doctor on board also looked the man over.

Once back at the dock, they handed the man off to an ambulance crew. The ambulance also picked up the man's companion, still passed out on the pier.

Then the water taxi started once again for Fort McHenry.

Break out the egg nog

Last Christmas, when she was 99, Mildred Atkinson figured maybe she was getting a little too old to party.

She had been hostess to what was surely Baltimore's oldest private party, a Christmas gathering that had drawn U.S. senators and other notables to her Bolton Hill rowhouse since 1935. She had skipped only two years: the year her husband died and another when she had been sick.

This past Christmas, instead of invitations, Atkinson mailed out notices saying she wasn't up for the party. An era was over. Or was it?

Last weekend, Atkinson, a longtime advocate for improved and integrated housing, turned 100. About 100 people, including former Sen. Paul Sarbanes, turned out to celebrate at the home of neurosurgeon Neal Naff. Atkinson had such a good time that she's thinking maybe, just maybe, she'll revive the party this Christmas.

Connect the dots

On CNN on Tuesday, Michael Steele described Arlen Specter's defection in terms you might not expect from a former seminarian. Steele said the Pennsylvania senator had "flipped [the GOP] the bird." ... Peter Angelos has made a "large donation" to help build a $450,000 memorial in Silver Spring to workers killed on the job, the Associated Press reports. He did not return a call seeking comment.

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