No gas for UWS NYCHA residents

Ricardo Cepeda and other residents of NYCHA brownstones on the Upper West Side haven’t had cooking gas since November. Photo: Michael Garofalo
Four NYCHA brownstones have been without cooking gas for months — and housing officials have yet to share a timetable for when service might be restored
By Michael Garofalo

Residents of three New York City Housing Authority brownstones on West 90th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West haven’t been able to use their stoves since just before Thanksgiving.

Gas service in the three neighboring brownstones at 38, 40 and 42 West 90th St. was suspended in November of last year following the discovery of a leak. The buildings are part of NYCHA’s West Side Urban Renewal brownstones, a group of 36 buildings between West 89th and West 93rd Streets. A number of apartments at a fourth NYCHA brownstone at 26 West 91st St. have been without gas since February.

Ricardo Cepeda, a third-generation resident of 38 West 90th Street, said that NYCHA contractors opened his kitchen wall to examine gas pipes soon after the outage but failed to repair the hole, leading to rodent infestations. Other residents echoed Cepeda’s complaint, and said NYCHA has not resolved repair issues despite repeated requests.

“They didn’t even seal the wall,” Cepeda said. “I had to get plastic myself and put it there. So now I’ve got rats all over the kitchen.”

“I don’t know what more to do,” he continued. “It seems like no matter what we do we’re kind of just left behind.”

Cynthia Tibbs, a resident leader at the NYCHA brownstones who lives in a nearby building unaffected by the gas outages, said that the housing authority’s lack of responsiveness has left residents frustrated.

“All they want is the gas to be restored and for repairs to be done,” she continued. “We’re going into the sixth month without gas and everybody at NYCHA is dragging their feet.”

Tibbs has requested that NYCHA provide assistance connecting tenants affected by the outage with Meals on Wheels, food pantries and other resources, but said that residents have received no assistance from the agency, save for one hot plate per household.

“One hot plate doesn’t cut it,” Tibbs said. “You can’t cook Thanksgiving dinner on one hot plate.”

“People cannot afford to order out every single day as they’ve been forced to do since November,” she added.

NYCHA officials met last week with residents but have not publicly shared a timeline for when service is expected to be restored.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal said that NYCHA has been unresponsive to communications from her office regarding the issue. “It’s very disturbing that NYCHA hasn’t moved on these repairs,” Rosenthal said. “We’re outraged that people haven’t been able to cook meals in their own homes since Thanksgiving.”

Con Edison has also apparently had difficulty communicating with NYCHA. In correspondence with Rosenthal’s office viewed by the Spirit, the utility explained that it had not received responses from NYCHA in its attempts to contact the agency regarding the outages.

A NYCHA spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement that the agency is “in the process of working with a vendor to complete necessary repairs.”

“The gas service restoration process includes shutting off the gas service, making necessary repairs, and inspection by the Department of Buildings in order to safely restore service,” the statement continued.