7 On Your Side Investigates: Bronx tenants without cooking gas for nearly a year

BRONX, New York City (WABC) -- More than 100 families at a building on Walton Avenue in the Bronx were forced to live without cooking gas for nearly a year following a partial building collapse in the basement ceiling of a vacant business located below the apartments.

The families called 7 On Your Side Investigates for help in frustration after the repair project had been ongoing for months.

"It's been a year," tenant Zunilda Silverio said. "It's too much. You can't cook. You can't do nothing here."

When 7 On Your Side Investigates got involved, tenants had been living with holes cut for new gas lines in their ceilings and floors for months and had been using management-provided electric hot plates they complained worked slowly at best.

"It's degrading," tenant Ana Liriano said. "They don't treat us like human beings."

Liriano and Silverio also complained the lack of a proper stove was forcing them to spend additional money eating out or buying pre-made food items.

7 On Your Side Investigates found out a mistake by Con Edison had caused an confusion among the building owner, the hired contractors, and gas workers, which led to an unnecessary delay.

Workers for Con Edison had been refusing to turn the gas on due to a partial vacate order on the property from the ceiling collapse.

The New York City Department of Buildings said that order should not have kept Con Edison from doing its job.

"The scope of the order was unclear to our workers for a period," Con Edison spokesperson Allan Drury said in a statement. "This was a complicated case, but we worked with the plumber and DOB to take the steps necessary to safely restore gas."

Beyond that mistake, Con Edison said additional delays were caused by the plumber's failure to provide them with the proper paperwork related to the job and the plumber's failure to show up for a scheduled appointment in January.

The building is managed by Yellowstone Properties.

Yellowstone refused to speak with 7 On Your Side Investigates on camera and instead provided a written statement.

"This entire process has been a travesty for the residents of 751 Walton caused by ineptitude in both Con Ed and DOB," the statement read. "We have been fighting for the installation of meters since January and enlisted the Borough President's office in our efforts...These are typical examples of how Con Ed changes its story to cover their inability to focus on getting the job done."

The management company also disputed Con Edison's claim that the project plumber missed a January appointment with the gas company.

DOB Deputy Commission of Enforcement Timothy Hogan said responsibility for the project to restore gas ultimately falls with Yellowstone Properties and added it should not have taken as long as it did to complete the project.

"When you have a large building and you shut gas service off and you go to restore it, you often times have problems with additional leaks, and so those are the things that lead to delays," Hogan said. "But even so, for the number of units here, they should have been able to do it in a more expeditious manner. The building owner is responsible for maintaining the building, the building owner is responsible for reacting to and taking care of situations."

After 7 On Your Side Investigates got involved, Con Edison turned gas on to half of the building.

A disagreement about whether Yellowstone Properties and its contractors had submitted the proper paperwork kept Con Edison from turning on gas to the other half of the building.

Yellowstone Properties said the remaining tenants would have gas by May 8 or May 9, just shy of 11 months from the day their gas was turned off last year.

"I am so happy," said Liriano, as she cooked with her stove for the first time. "Thank you."


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