NEW BRITAIN – Cora Cole turns the oven on before she goes to sleep these days.
Since her apartment is freezing cold at night, this is a risk she takes.
The Chicago native and Las Vegas transplant moved into the building at 9 Sherman Ct. on Aug. 31, 2020. Hers is the side entrance to the apartments at 359 W. Main St.
The mice had already made it their home, she says. The cold didn’t arrive until about November, as it does in these parts.
“My apartment is very nice, but when I moved in I was catching five or six mice a day,” said Cole, whose 18-year-old son lives with her.
But her chief complaint is the cold. The building has one thermostat and one furnace, in the basement. According to Cole, the land lady only runs the heat intermittently during the day to appease the city. Then she shuts it off at night, leaving the tenants to freeze.
Cole reported the issue to the city early on in the winter season. Lately, she has been calling New Britain Police at night after city officials have left for the day to report the cold building.
Property manager Ewelina “Evelyn” Heperek claims her tenant is telling tall tales, however.
“The city went many times; the police went many times; she had heat,” Heperek said over the phone Thursday. “I have no words for that woman. I’ve had no complaints from other people and I have 13 families there.”
Heperek’s phone number traces to an address in New York City. She has a relative, a man named Lukasz, who lives in New Britain who Cole says is in charge of maintenance and repairs at the apartments.
Cole says her neighbors are fearful of Heperek, too fearful to take action like she has.
“Everybody here is scared. I’m not because my mother was a property owner in Chicago and I know my rights,” Cole said.
Zulema Gonzalez lives in the unit next door.
“For the past few months it’s been very, very cold,” Gonzalez said. “Police have been called a lot of times. We keep complaining. I have fibromyalgia and it’s very painful, especially in winter.”
She takes care of her grandkids, including a newborn baby.
“If my neighbor doesn’t have it, I don’t have it,” Gonzalez said of the heat. “We use blankets. We wear sweaters.”
Another woman downstairs, who refused to give her name, also confirmed Cole’s allegations.
“What she’s saying is true,” the woman told the Herald Thursday. “It’s always been this way. I’ve lived here for 12 years. We’ve had many landlords.”
Cole recently got diagnosed with pneumonia.
“We were without heat for 48 hours at one point,” she says, her voice hoarse. “Who does this to people? You have to be inhuman.”
New Britain Supervising Sanitarian Caleb Cowles has spoken with Cole and Heperek, with the police department, and just this week, with the State Attorney’s office to see what can be done about the situation. If the property manager is found at fault, she could be tried in housing court or worse.
“The problem over there is the owner of the property has the ability to control the heat of the building remotely,” Cowles said. “During the day the furnace goes on, and as the report goes from Mrs. Cole, they turn the heat off at night when we’re not available to do the inspection.”
Police are in the process of collecting evidence to corroborate or negate this story.
The eventual hope is each unit will get its own thermostat and everyone will be happy.
“While the thermometer in the basement says it’s nice and cozy the people upstairs are not being treated to sufficient heat,” Cowles said. “The frustrating part is we go out there and they’re in compliance. We haven’t been able to substantiate her claims and nobody else has been able to step forward. We have to be an unbiased observer of the facts. We’re trying to cut through the grey matter to get at the heart of the situation.”
Cole is not going to move out until she finds a solution. She’s not going to leave her neighbors in the cold.
“There’s kids who live here,” she says. “The city’s working with me and eventually she’s going to get locked up. I’m looking for a new apartment. I’m going to move but I want to get her exposed. She needs to know – you can’t do this to people. I wouldn’t be going through all this for no reason. Maybe other people are used to living like this but I’m not.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.