Lack of heat shuts down classes at CUNY’s Bronx Community College

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams — turn on the heat.

CUNY’s Bronx Community College has canceled most in-person classes because of a lack of heat on campus — and the school’s faculty union is blaming government leaders for the long-festering maintenance problem.

The deep freeze was revealed this week by BCC president Thomas Isekenegbe, who said students will have to learn and work remotely until at least Thanksgiving.

“Bronx Community College continues to experience intermittent heating issues. As a result, all classes except for lab courses and clinicals are being moved to an online format effective Wednesday, November 16, through Wednesday, November 23,” Isekenegbe said in a Nov. 15 email blast to students and staff.

“We are currently working on fixing the heating issues in time for when students, faculty and staff return after the Thanksgiving Holidays.”

In-person classes were canceled at Bronx Community College over a lack of heat.
Angel Chevrestt

James Davis, the president of the CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, fumed, “BCC can’t keep the heat working because years of delayed maintenance and underfunding have left CUNY short staffed and unable to keep our buildings in safe, working order.”

New York City law requires heat be provided from Oct. 1 through May 31. When the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, inside temperatures are required to be at least 68 degrees.

City University of New York’s community college campuses are funded jointly by the state and the city governments.

Students and faculty complain that lack of heat has been a festering problem at Bronx Community College.
Christopher Sadowski

“The cold that BCC students, 93% of whom are Black and Latinx, felt in class this week was a chilling reminder of how little regard the political establishment has for our communities. And Mayor Adams, who cut CUNY’s City funding by 3% last year, is cutting another 3%!,” Davis said.

BCC biology professor Yasmin Edwards said the complaints about the heat at the campus were first registered since early October. Staff and students even filed complaints with the city’s 311 system.

But it’s become a pressing concern with temperatures dropping close to freezing in recent days.

“Please, we need heat! We’ve had thermometer readings of 57% in classes,” she said.

Bronx Community College.
Bronx Community College is looking to replace its aging boiler system to fix heating woes on campus.

“We have an ancient boiler. I don’t know how the authorities allowed this to happen. It’s egregious. It’s unconscionable,” Edwards said.

In the meantime, she said space heaters are being distributed to lab classes that require in-person instruction.

A spokesperson for Mayor Adams responded Friday, “We are in communication with CUNY on the heating issues at Bronx Community College. The school is currently working on fixing the heating issues in time for when students faculty and staff return after the Thanksgiving Holiday.”

Gov. Hochul’s office had no immediate comment.

BCC has an aging infrastructure. Half its 34 buildings are at least 80 years old, according to the college’s budget records.

BCC requested $32 million in capital funding last year to replace “the aging boiler plant” by September 2024, which includes three boilers and two chillers.

A City University spokesperson, in a statement released late Friday said, “The Vice Chancellor for Facilities at CUNY went to Bronx Community College on Wednesday to help them remedy the situation. Two boilers were fixed immediately.

“The University is also delivering a temporary boiler to the campus in the event that another boiler breaks. The campus was closed out of an abundance of caution for the comfort of students, staff and faculty but classrooms will be fully operational after the Thanksgiving break.”