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Air conditioning breaks at senior apartments

The Broadway Court Senior Life building in East Baltimore advertises being "in the heart of Baltimore."

Residents who had been without air conditioning from Friday through Monday afternoon said that it was like living "in the heat of Baltimore."

According to Armerlous Givens, the air conditioning was fixed "while the media was here" and came back on "around 2 or 3 [p.m.]. Givens, 66, said that it had been fixed last week as well and stopped working within a few hours.

"We have all had a terrible time," Givens said Monday night. "It's really been rough."

Noting earlier in the day that many residents don't leave the complex in the 900 block of Broadway because they are either elderly or disabled, Givens said, "It's just too hot for any humans to have to be here 24 hours.

"My family offered to get me, but I said, 'no,'" Givens said. "No one seems to be concerned about the people here, and I couldn't leave them. My heart wouldn't let me."

The building has 47 one-bedroom apartments on four floors. During the weekend, temperatures topped 100 degrees. Sweltering residents have placed fans in doorways and sat in the lobby, but they are still feeling the heat.

Givens came to Broadway Court a year and a half ago looking for more space than she had living with her daughter. She lives on the first floor, but she was joined by many residents from upper floors trying to escape the heat.

"The higher up you go, the hotter it gets. It's burning up there," she said Monday. "There's no air stirring."

Contacting city officials was no comfort for residents. Givens said that after contacting the Department on Aging, she was told that there was "nothing they could do" because Broadway Court is privately owned.

Sherratta Hearn, the property manager at Broadway Court, said before the air conditioning was restored, "It's unfortunate that it had to go out during a heat wave," she said.

She said the unit had been struggling Friday and workers tried to add parts to "make it work better." But the parts could not be obtained and the air-conditioning unit stopped working that afternoon.

During several hot days in June, Hearn said, single-room air conditioners were given out to those in greatest need. "If need be, we'll provide them with those things again," she said. "We are working our hardest. I sympathize with them. I would fix it myself if I could. I'm sweating and I'm hot right along with them. They have paid their due diligence to society, and they just want to be comfortable."

Alan Stearn, another property manager, said repairs weren't started until Monday. "We tried to contact all local HVAC contractors in the area, but they didn't get back to us," he said, adding that residents were encouraged to "find relief" in the hallways and lobby.

Two-year resident Frank Hardin III said he has been collecting signatures of residents willing to take action to correct the problem. "We're going to put our money together and get a lawyer and put our rent in escrow until they fix it — not patch it, fix it," he said.

Hardin lives on the fourth floor and said that the air conditioning has been a problem before. "They patch it instead of getting it fixed professionally like it should be fixed," he said.

Residents are concerned about the health issues that can arise from the continued heat. "I have a respiratory problem, and it's very hard to breathe in here, especially at night," Hardin said.

Givens said that even after several hours, her apartment was not yet as cool as it had been in the past.

"They said we should get a much better flow by tomorrow," she said.

Reporter Don Markus contributed to this article

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