7 On Your Side Investigates: Bronx tenants left without cooking gas for 2 years

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Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Bronx tenants left without cooking gas for 2 years
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7 On Your Side Investigates found thousands of people in New York City filed complaints about cooking gas. Dan Krauth has the story.

Bruce and Betty Robertson didn't expect to be spending their retirement years spending so much time trying to figure out how to cook their meals.

Their kitchen stove is collecting dust. They haven't had working gas in the Bronx building for not just weeks, or months but two full years.

They've resorted to making their meals in crockpots, an air fryer, and their microwave to get by.

"We need help tremendously," said Bruce Robertson. "I mean, ASAP, right now," he said.

Robertson moved into his affordable housing coop in the Bronx more than 3 decades ago with his wife Betty.

The gas to the building at 1715 Nelson Avenue was turned off back in the January 2021 due to a gas leak. It can't be turned back on until repairs are made to the building's century-old pipes. That means more than 40 families have been living just like the Robertsons ever since.

7 On Your Side Investigates found thousands of people in New York City filed complaints about cooking gas. More than 15,000 in the past 3 years with a majority of those complaints happening in the Bronx. But their issues are typically resolved within two weeks.

"We haven't been just complaining, we've been complaining for a number of years now and it's ridiculous," said Robertson.

The Department of Buildings issued violations since then, ranging from an illegal propane tank hooked up to the boiler and construction work done without permits. Those issues have since been resolved.

When 7 On Your Side Investigates reached out to Alliance Property Management and Development, who started managing the building about a year after the leak first happened, they wouldn't talk to us on camera or answer questions. Instead, they sent a one-page letter saying fixing the pipes is a "complicated and expensive" process and the coop "lacks the financial resources" to fix the problem. They also stated the problem has been made worse due to an ongoing maintenance and rent strike.

Numerous tenants are refusing to pay their rent or maintenance fees due to the gas outage and have posted "rent strike" signs on their doors.

The property management company also stated it has been managing the property without compensation since March 2022.

A spokesperson for the city said they've issued violations and are making "progress." A spokesperson with the NYC Department of Housing Perseveration and Development sent a statement saying:

"Protecting the health and safety of all New York City residents is our top priority - and one of the gravest threats New Yorkers may face in their homes are gas leaks. Gas leaks like the one in this building can be very dangerous and may cause service to be cut off out of extreme caution while repairs are scoped and addressed by building owners. We've issued violations to the owner for their failure to provide an adequate supply of kitchen gas and we are making progress with the property manager to ensure service is safely restored to residents as quickly as possible."

Here's the full statement released by Alliance Property Management and Development:

In December 2021, Alliance Property Management & Development (Alliance) was engaged to assist with the management of 1715 Nelson Avenue Housing Development Fund Corporation (the Co-op), a 48-unit low-income cooperative located in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx. Alliance was retained to help the Co-op restore the natural gas service to the building and bring the building's habitability to a level required by law. On January 21, 2021, approximately eleven months before Alliance was engaged, the natural gas service for the entire building was shut off due to a gas leak found in one of the units of the Co-op. The gas piping serving the building dates to 1927, when the building was constructed, and the process of rehabilitating the gas piping is complicated and expensive. To make matters worse, the Co-op lacks the financial resources to address such an expensive and complex rehabilitation. Notwithstanding, we have been working diligently with the Co-op's Board to restore the natural gas service to the building. We are collectively working with the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), Con Edison, and a licensed plumbing company, in this effort. We empathize with the frustration of the residents of this building. However, our efforts to restore the natural gas service have been hampered by a few residents who refuse to provide access to their units for inspections and repairs. Additionally, several shareholders and tenants have refused to pay their maintenance/ rent since December 2021 impeding efforts to restore the natural gas service to the building which negatively affects the quality of life of all the residents. Beginning in December 2021, the building received numerous NYC Housing Preservation & Development violations. These violations were called in by several Co-op residents. Furthermore, the Co-op received several NYC DOB violations beginning in January 2022 requiring the Co-op's Board to use its limited funds to remove non-fire-rated partition walls, discard unauthorized storage material, remove laundry machines installed in 2012, and install an electric ignition assembly to provide hot water to the building to mention a few corrections made. Unfortunately, the Co-op's financial constraints caused by an ongoing maintenance/ rent strike, have left many violations in need of correction. Despite all these encountered impediments, the Co-op's Board, along with Alliance's assistance, continues to use its best efforts to maintain all the required services to its residents and make significant progress in restoring the building's natural gas services and increasing the habitability of the building for its residents. To this end, Alliance has been helping the Co-op's Board in managing this distressed property without compensation since March 2022 to ensure that the property becomes and remains habitable and financially sound allowing it to make needed maintenance/ repairs without hindrance or delay to provide its residents a safe and secure home!


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