Harlem Complex Leaves Thousands Without Gas

Metro Us reports that residents at the mammoth West Harlem apartment complex have suffered through a Dickensian winter.

Tenants in about 1,200 apartments at 3333 Broadway weren’t able to boil water on their stoves, let alone bake a Christmas ham.

Some living at Riverside Park Community even went without heat and hot water intermittently during the four months their gas has been, and still is, off.

The shut-down followed a resident’s Nov. 28, 2016 complaint about an odor of gas emanating from a utility room. That led to the discovery of a gas leak. To avert catastrophe, every gas line in the five-tower complex had to be closed as the complex goes through a complicated process of repair and inspection.

Residents from buildings A through E are fuming as the company that owns the building, Urban American, has provided scant information about the issue and relatively nothing about when to expect service to be restored.

“It’s one nightmare after another,” one tenant told Metro. “It’s clear it’s moving at a turtle’s pace.”

People from the management company defended the massive challenge.

“Not even God made it happen in one day,” assistant building manager Hansel Olivares told Metro. “We’re going as fast as we can.”

Cooking for five people on a portable electric stove has been a tough task for Mery Mendoza, who’s lived at Riverside Park for 26 years. Her electric bill skyrocketed to $250 a month — owing to the electric cooker.

Lesley Cordero, 22, moved into her studio in January, not knowing that she wouldn’t be able to cook. And the $90 discount offered on her $1795 rent has barely covered her dining-out expenses, she said.

Even the clothes dryers were cold until about a month ago.

Restoring the gas is a lengthy, complex process, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Buildings explained. The building owners must hire a licensed master plumber to do initial inspections, file permits and make repairs.

Zone by zone, as repairs are made, the plumber requests the DOB to do an inspection to authorize service restoration. Finally, the utility company, in this case Con Edison, will do final “integrity tests” before turning the gas back on.

“Access to the apartments has made pressure testing difficult,” Con Edison spokesperson Sydney Alvarez said. “The plumbers expect repairs to take weeks. They have to have access to every single apartment, and that can be time-consuming.”

As of March 23, 2017, service to 334 apartments had been restored. Another 856 still do not have gas. The DOB indicated that they have granted the authorization each time they’ve come out for inspection, the last time occurring on March 9, 2017.

It could take a few more months for gas to be fully operational system-wide, Olivares said. Additional calls to the legal department at Urban American went unanswered by press time.

“If there is a good note in this, it’s that someone took the initiative to call about the gas leak,” adding that people must speak up — call 911 — if they smell the signature rotten egg smell of the chemical added to gas for safety.

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