APT: Washington Heights

Something’s not right here.

So, we haven’t been at the city apartment for a while, but we headed down late last night—dogs in tow, of course—and were greeted with this sight upon our arrival:

Yes, that’s right, the kitchen ceiling has been relocated to the kitchen floor. And on its way down, it decided to extinguish both pilot lights on the stove…so the entire apartment was filled with gas. Scary stuff. (This photo was taken after we’d opened the window.)

We opened the window and turned off the gas, but we can’t stay there until the gas clears and the ceiling is repaired. Even just being in there for a few minutes made me feel sick. I think the gas must have been pouring out for days, since this was clearly the result of rain damage to the ceiling coming in through the roof (our apartment is on the top floor), but everything was bone-dry.

After making numerous calls to the management company and our superintendent, we all got in the car and drove all the way back up to the house. We’re extremely lucky to have that as an option—I don’t know what we’d have done if this was our sole residence!

Let’s see how long it takes for the ceiling to get fixed, shall we? Things like this are exactly the reason why I prefer to be a homeowner. The lack of control you have as a renter can be frustrating—especially since I know they won’t actually fix the source of the leak…they’ll just patch the hole and move on. We could tell it had been “fixed” before we moved in, so this isn’t even a new problem. Argh!

UPDATE: The ceiling is FIXED! And the roof, too. Whaddya know?

Previous Post Next Post

Other Stuff You Might Be Into


  • Reply Nubby August 22, 2011 at 8:10 am

    How scary! I’m glad you didn’t wake up to that but had instead stopped in and were able to leave!

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 8:11 am

      ME TOO. I’m extra-glad that it didn’t happen with the dogs in the apartment and us away!!

  • Reply Jaime from Design Milk August 22, 2011 at 8:11 am

    That is awful.

  • Reply Dan @ Manhattan Nest August 22, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Oh man, Anna, sorry that happened!! Scary stuff. I’m CONSTANTLY worried about this happening in my place, too, as a top-floor resident with some mysterious water marks/peeling paint in places on the ceilings. You’re totally right, they just patch the wall and basically wait for it to rot and fall again.

    In the meantime, if you need a place to crash…door’s open!! On the condition that I get at least one dog per night to snuggle, you know, if they want.

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 10:37 am

      Every apartment ceiling will leak at some point—top floor apartments are especially bad. You DO have renter’s insurance, right? And a list/photos of everything in your apartment?

    • Alicia August 22, 2011 at 11:22 am

      Just a suggestion about documenting what you own for insurance — Making an iphone video is super easy and fun since you just have to walk around your apartment! 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      Is there any reason why a video is better than photos? It’s never crossed my mind to make a video!

    • Alicia August 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm

      It won’t let me reply back to your comment, Anna, but I love the video because it’s just 2 minutes long and that’s exactly how long I spent walking around. I bet it would have taken longer to take pictures and if I did it that way, instead of having one video file that if paused could create a still of any frame I want, I would have had the dozens of pictures I took of every angle of the apartment cluttering up my iphone photos folder, hehe. The movie is like a giant panorama, so nothing was ever just out of frame.

      It was the insurance company that recommended the video, actually!

  • Reply Dee August 22, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Quite scary!
    I didn’t even know stoves with pilot lights existed, suppose that’s American? Isn’t that always a bit dangerous to have in your kitchen?
    With our stove you always have to switch on the gas first and then add a spark or flame so it can never happen that gas spills out.
    I hope it will be repaired soon!

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 8:28 am

      Very cheap stoves with no electrical source (the stove is just connected to a gas line, there’s no power line) still have pilot lights here. It’s common to see in NYC apartments where they put the cheapest-possible appliances in. And yes, it always scares me!

  • Reply Monica August 22, 2011 at 9:54 am

    =:o Too many “what ifs” to think about. Glad all 4 of you are okay.

  • Reply jodi August 22, 2011 at 10:00 am


  • Reply Maggie@Okay, now what? August 22, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Oh no! That totally bites.

  • Reply Jill August 22, 2011 at 10:25 am

    So sorry to see the ugly situation you’re dealing with — it’s the pits! A friend of mine dealt with this same caving-in ceiling situation for FOUR YEARS all over her apartment. It ruined her MacBook (and she’s a freelancer), it ruined her couch, it caused thousands of dollars of damage. On the plus side, it was a testament to the power of renter’s insurance since they replaced everything. It’s so cheap, yet so amazing when you have terrible problems with your apartment.

    Glad you guys are all okay, and fingers crossed for a more helpful super!

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 10:35 am

      I am a big advocate of renter’s insurance. With a single exception, EVERY apartment I’ve ever rented in NYC has had a leaky roof and/or ceiling at some point.

      What kills me is that you KNOW they’re not going to actually fix the roof.

  • Reply Shelly August 22, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Oh no your pretty kitchen! Renting is the worst when you need something done quickly. I once had a hot water heater broken for a month! I was boiling water on the stove and adding it to a cold bath just so I could take a warm-ish bath.

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 10:36 am

      Ugh, that sounds terrible! We had the same thing happen in our loft in Brooklyn, but we didn’t have a bathtub—so icy-cold showers it was!

  • Reply dabney August 22, 2011 at 10:42 am

    that’s pretty bad. if they are being blase´ send a letter to the management company – start putting it in writing. in my neck of the woods, that alone usually freaks landlords out. nyc landlords might be a tougher breed than most, but it’s a step towards documentation, should the problem escalate.

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 10:47 am

      Yeah, we just had to send them a certified letter a few weeks ago about something totally unrelated. I’m looking into how long they legally have to repair the ceiling, because they’re telling us TWO WEEKS at this point.

    • dabney August 22, 2011 at 10:52 am

      since it’s uninhabitable, the rent should be pro-rated for the month.

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 10:56 am

      It’s not uninhabitable. The gas will have (hopefully) cleared by today, and the damage to the ceiling is confined to the kitchen. There’s nothing stopping us from living there while we wait for the repairs. NYC rent guidelines are pretty clear about this. I guess we could technically withhold 1/30th of the rent for a single night, but that seems a little crazy!

  • Reply Adam August 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

    12 Years ago I was on a bottom floor apartment of a four apartment brick house with a kitchen below the upstairs apartment’s bathroom. One night while I was student teaching our kitchen ceiling collapsed due to an upstairs plumbing problem. Ceiling tiles and toilet water all over my kitchen and stove. Thankfully our pilot lights somehow stayed on. Terrible mess though. I’m so sorry this happened to you! I hope it gets fixed quicker than you think it will!

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Were you living with me yet when the bathroom ceiling on Quarropas Street caved in?? That was a NIGHTMARE.

    • Adam August 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm

      I remember that bathroom on Quarropas leaking in a lot of places whenever it rained, but it didn’t cave in when I was there.

  • Reply Nina August 22, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Oh no! Luckily you guys weren’t home when it happend.

    In our two last rental places we had problems with water coming through the ceiling and neither landlord was able to fix the problems permanently…

    The rain was really bad two Sundays ago that’s probably when it happend (?). Because we gotten a new roof in the spring we stayed dry on top that day but our basement flooded….

  • Reply maddy August 22, 2011 at 11:12 am

    EEK. So glad your doggies were not there when it happened. Scary. I also believe in renter’s insurance and always had it when renting. It would be nice if you got a real fix for the roof, but yeah…probably not.

  • Reply Hayley August 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

    That sucks! If they don’t fix the roof, maybe you could request a hood of some sort put over the stove. That way if it happens again it won’t extinguish the pilot lights. Cheers!

  • Reply Angelica August 22, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Ooof! Sadly, I can relate. My greatest hit was when a construction worker’s leg actually came through my kitchen ceiling. Long story short, I have since moved. Unfortunately, my friends and I have quite the history of living in buildings here in Montreal where roof leaks are ignored, and ceilings are just patched and repatched. I hope for your sake (and, in an oblique way, for the building owners’ sake) that they decide to fix the roof once and for all!

  • Reply Audrie August 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Wow that’s just terrible! Glad you guys weren’t there when it happened. I’d probably send them a stern letter to get things hopefully moving a little quicker. It boils my blood that your super is being so blah about it.

  • Reply Ana @ Rearranged Design August 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I had this happen to me. My culprit was the guy upstairs doing construction in his bathroom and a water leak. I noticed the bulging ceiling just in time to move our computer out of the way, as I was moving it the ceiling fell.

    Our landlord was quick about the repair.

  • Reply kelly w August 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I am totally paranoid about gas appliances. SO SO SO glad nothing exploded and that you are all safe. xo

  • Reply Kathy August 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Ugh! Sorry Anna!

  • Reply L August 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Count me in on the “so glad you weren’t standing at the stove!” crowd.

    And I’m a loud second to the motion about home ownership over renting — IF you have the $$$s to do repairs when they are needed.

    Wonder what the landlord would have done if the gas HAD blown part of his building to smithereens (with, of course, nobody injured)?

  • Reply Marie @ M2JL STUDIO August 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Too scary for and the reason why avoid places with gas. Your landlord is lucky to have someone who takes such good care of the place. Shouldn’t that count for something?

  • Reply nova August 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Whoa! Lucky you didn’t leave the dogs at home or something! That sucks!

  • Reply Rebecca Mellor August 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    That must have been awful for you all – scary stuff with the gas too! So glad you’re all ok though and really hope it gets fixed soon!

  • Reply elisabeth August 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Re: disinterested super: how well is the building maintained in general? i know it is not your primary residence, but i might put up a fuss to get them to move faster to fix it. often works for me….but then again, i am a lawyer, which my super knows……

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

      The building is pretty well maintained overall, but because the building is about 75% co-op (we rent from the mgmt company), it’s my suspicion that renters get shafted when it comes to repairs within the units.

      That said, the super DID finally come into the apartment this morning before we got back, and I think he was pretty shocked by how bad it was.

  • Reply Rosa August 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    This happened to my aunt in Washington Heights. She was in the bathroom, on the loo, when the ceiling crashed on her head. She had an issue with management to fix it for months and the lawsuit that ensued for damages to her. I hope it gets resolved very soon. Stay safe.

  • Reply satsuki shibuya | zakka nouveau August 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    oh my goodness!! so glad to hear that you’re both ok, but how scary! seriously not ok that it wasn’t fixed fully, but just ‘covered up’. hope they will now consider fixing it for good. 🙂

  • Reply MKH August 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I had a metal cover cut for my gas stove (probably any metal work shop could do the work), but it keeps the cats out/off the stove and I guess in your case would protect the pilot light if the leak should happen again. Just an idea? Sorry about the leak that really looks like a miserable job to clean up – so sorry!

    • Anna @ D16 August 22, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      That’s a really good idea! I wonder if there might be something I can buy pre-fab that would be the right size. Thanks!!

  • Reply victoria August 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    oh man. this is bad. i am so sorry you are going through this! i have been mostly offline, and just now catching up. i do hope they realize the severity of the problem and get it cleaned up soon and properly!! big, huge hugs!! xoxo

  • Reply Carol August 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I went through this once, sans the possible gas explosion. The apartment above me was being renovated and long story short, my bathroom ceiling came crashing down due to water damage. I rent from the management company but the contractors were hired by the owners so there was a lot of back and forth. The contractors fixed the ceiling the next day but not the actual root of the problem The management company was so unhelpful until I finally called the owner crying (ugh- the shame.) But that’s not what really helped get the job done- withholding your rent payments until the repair work is done is key. Not sure what the rules are in NY, but for me I just had to show proof of $$ in escrow and that set the fire under their butts.

    Good luck!! And glad you’re OK!

  • Reply Bright August 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Oh my god. I’m getting renter’s insurance next month for sure. I’m so glad everyone was uninjured.

  • Reply Erica August 22, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Good heavens — I’m so glad you’re all okay and that the whole place didn’t get blown to bits by the gas. How lucky that you went in when you did. Yikes.

  • Reply Isabelle August 23, 2011 at 4:18 am

    Oh, my goodness. Good that you were not present when it happened.

    Interesting the story of the pilot light; never seen such thing in any European country; and if you have a single standing appliance here in EU, they always come with a lid that you can close to hide burners etc. and which serves as a splashing back while cooking. Just that 99% of people have build in appliances nowadays, and then you don’t have any lid.

    • Anna @ D16 August 23, 2011 at 9:40 am

      I think it’s mostly a NYC apartment thing, these crappy stoves with continuously-lit pilot lights! The stove at our house has closed burners and an electric starter, so something like this could never happen there.

  • Reply Eliza August 23, 2011 at 6:21 am

    UGH. so frustrating. gooooooood luck!

  • Reply Mrs Bok August 23, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Arch you poor thing! So lucky nothing happened…candles anyone?! Eek!!

    Insist they fix it and mention health hazard and news radio perhaps!!

    Glad you’re ok x

  • Reply Annapolitan August 23, 2011 at 6:54 am

    How scary to read there was the strong smell of gas! To think there could have been an explosion and fire, possibly triggered by switching on the lights — it makes me queasy just to think about it. So glad to know you’re all safe, Anna.

  • Reply jbhat August 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Terrifying / frustrating. But what I am astonished at is how cute your kitchen is still managing to look, even under all the rubble. The workers who come to do the “patch” will have such a pleasant environment during their job. : )


    • Gracie August 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      yeah me too, ha ha

  • Reply Mandi August 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Oh my! What a mess! I hope it gets fixed soon enough. I know what you mean about frustrations with being a renter. I lived in my brother’s home for two years, and we gutted it from top to bottom. Now I’m in my own apartment, and am so blessed to have a live-in manager who keeps on top of my every need. Such a rarity. Anyways, good luck to you two!

  • Reply bork August 23, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Read your renters’ insurance policies very carefully, everyone, especially if you are renting a second place like Anna is. Many (most?) such policies include provisions that the place cannot be left unoccupied for very long. In some policies the trigger is one week! Make sure to get housesitters or at least house-checker-uppers.

    • Anna @ D16 August 24, 2011 at 6:21 am

      Not that this isn’t good advice, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with the situation in my apartment. It’s not my property that was damaged, it’s the building owner’s—my renters insurance doesn’t even come into the picture at all. (Not to mention that we’ve never left for more than a few days at a stretch.) Just clarifying.

  • Reply Kellee August 24, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Oh no, Anna, how awful. Hope it gets sorted quickly 🙂

  • Reply Alexis L., The Studioist August 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Oh that’s some spectacular mess.
    Glad no one was hurt.
    My indignation would have been positively boundless.

  • Reply Bun August 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    OMG that’s scary! Good luck w/ the cleanup and repairs!

    xoxo bun.

  • Reply Kristina August 24, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    We had the exact same problem with a rental a couple of years ago — but with a bigger hole over the bed. Like in your case, it was an existing leak the landlord knew about. I’d called several times to report it was getting worse and had just left the room to get the camera to document how bad the cracks were when the whole thing came down on the bed.

    No one returned my call that weekend, and it took FOUR MONTHS (technically inhabitable, no proration) for them to repair the damage, which resulted in permanent sinus problems. But they did ultimately fix the leak that caused the damage.

    But it was the rat infestation that finally drove us out.

    • Anna @ D16 August 25, 2011 at 1:29 am

      Oh good grief. 🙁

  • Reply Gracie August 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Oh and yes beginning to see the downsides of renting too!

  • Reply Tux August 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Are you doing anything to prepare the kitchen for Irene? Im assuming (and hoping) that the repair hasn’t been done yet, but with the rain they’re predicting for us here in NYC I bet the damage is just going to get that much worse. You should at least get any valuables out of the kitchen and turn the gas off completely if you haven’t already. If you just re-lit the pilot I’m sure it’ll be going out again…

    • Anna @ D16 August 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      Yeah, we’ve had the gas completely shut off this whole time. Trying to think happy thoughts!

  • Reply Kelly August 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm


  • Reply Ayana August 29, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Oh, my goodness..that is awful. I hope it will be repaired soon! Good luck Anna!!

  • Reply RebeccaNYC August 29, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Just catching up with my blog reading, and this post really caught my eye! The very first time I went to Europe about 10 years ago, I spent 6 weeks there. I had left my apartment SPOTLESS with clean everything for my return. When I entered my apartment I was greeted by the worst mold smell imaginable. The entire bathroom ceiling had collapsed on the floor and water was still dripping. Everything was a sodden disgusting mess. I have photos just like yours, only add my suitcase into the photo because I took pictures to add to the end of my vacation album. I continued to have problems with that leak until I moved out last year. I just moved down the hall, so I was able to give a heads up to the new tenant. sheesh. apartment living makes for some good stories.

    • Anna @ D16 August 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      OMG, that sounds terrible!!! Yikes!!

  • Reply jja September 5, 2011 at 3:24 am

    Thats why I will never move in an apartmen with a gas (have two cats and they stay in there during I trevel, the catsiterr comes every day) and thats why I love german laws, it would get fixed as soon as possible.

  • Reply Patricia Ann September 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I’m really curious, but forgot to ask you, what typeface are you using for the captions on the photos (i.e, “OH NOES”).


    • Anna @ D16 September 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

      It’s Brandon Grotesque.

    • Patricia Ann September 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm


  • Reply Wiliam October 18, 2021 at 11:06 am


  • Leave a Comment

    Door Sixteen is a hate-free, drama-free, spam-free zone. Open dialogue is welcome, but comments designed to harm or deceive will be removed.

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Get D16 in your mailbox

    Sign up to receive weekly digests and (occasional) other updates from Door Sixteen! I promise to not bombard your inbox.