From the Dean: Heat Returns to Chelsea Square

Friday evening, 9 November 2012

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We are now 11 days without heat in most of our buildings. The geothermal system that heats Dodge and Kohne is functioning, and the Keller Library, which draws heat from the Chelsea Enclave system, is warm. Each room in Seabury has its own heating unit, so our offices and classrooms are comfortable. On the rest of the Close, we are making due with space heaters. Anthony Khani spent much of the weekend driving from Home Depot to Walmart to any other outlet he could find Upstate, and he secured plenty of heaters for us. In our homes, we’re not toasty, but neither are we shivering. In the two large common spaces -- the Chapel and the Refectory --, however, it has been very cold. We are lucky that temperatures are rising in New York, as Google shows.

Heat 1
Heat 1

We are even luckier that Mr. Khani has secured for us a portable boiler, which is currently being connected into our heating system. Through contacts in his previous position with a large corporation, he was able to secure a portable system for us from Tennessee. Late this afternoon, the truck carrying the boiler arrived. Right now, workers are connecting it into our steam-heat system. Our apartments will be overheated and our radiators will be clanging sometime this weekend. In other words, it will be like a normal New York winter.

Heat 2
Heat 2

The City gave us a permit to take up parking spaces for the truck that houses the boiler. That meant that all the cars parked along the northwest edge of our property – 21st Street just east of 10th Avenue – had to move. Two days ago, as the law requires, we posted signs asking those parked in those places to move in anticipation of the arrival of the truck. All but two did, and we had the legal right to tow those two cars. (We towed them just across 10th Avenue.)

To tow neighbors’ cars is not a good way to make friends and build community relations. Neither is it good to import noisy equipment. So we decided to go door-to-door in the neighborhood and have a conversation with those who answered and leave a letter for those who did not.

Heat 3
Heat 3

I spoke to many of our neighbors, and only one said a negative word. The rest were kind and encouraging. One, who got the note but did not speak to me, sent me a follow-up email, and she has given me permission to share it with you.

Heat 4
Heat 4

We need to foster such relationships with all our neighbors, and we are on our way.

Right now, technicians are working to connect our heating system to the external boiler. Some of that work is being done on the street.

Heat 5
Heat 5
Heat 6
Heat 6

The steam will be piped in overhead, so people can walk between the truck and Hoffman Hall. The trees on 21st Street are getting in the way, but the workers are making good progress is maneuvering around them.

In the boiler room, other workers are making the connections between the temporary exterior boiler and our campus heating system. It is impossible to say when all of this will be wrapped up and the clanging of the radiators will begin again, but it will surely be this weekend.

All of this is happening just in time for the football team from VTS to arrive for tomorrow’s game against us. After the game, students from GTS and VTS will go together to Fulton Houses, the public housing just south of us on 9th Avenue, to continue the ministry that our faculty and students began there in the aftermath of the storm. The students from VTS will be spending the weekend on sofas and blowup mattresses in student apartments and dorm rooms here at General, and our community will be caring for them as well as we can.

Reread that last paragraph, and you will know what wonders can emerge in the midst of what seems like a disaster and nothing more. It is a disaster, indeed, but in the midst of it, those who can see something more, will see something more.

Now that we are getting back to some kind of normalcy, I will not have many more opportunities to write these memos – which some have called “pastoral letters” – to keep the GTS community aware of what is happening here in a land without electricity and heat. We who live on the Close and we who assemble here for study and prayer and a shared life are grateful for all the comments and gestures of support that have come to us as a result of these updates.

Many in our area are still without what have become basic necessities, some are living with illness and injury, some are facing death, and many are mourning the loss of those who already have died. We at GTS have been fortunate to have one another. The goodwill and charity, the self-control and forbearance on Chelsea Square have been stunningly beautiful. I am proud to have been part of it, and humbled. I know I am not alone. We are a community renewed by enduring a shared trauma in a context of compassion, hope, and trust.

Again, Psalm 133: Oh, how good and how pleasant it is! Your brother,

Patrick+ (The Rev.) Canon Patrick Malloy, PhD