Harlem Residents May Not Get Gas Service for Six Weeks

By Jeff Mays on August 18, 2011 5:13pm 

The site of the street collapse at St, Nicholas Avenue and 152nd Street.
The site of the street collapse at St, Nicholas Avenue and 152nd Street.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — Con Edison says it hopes to have gas restored to 4,300 Harlem customers whose service was disrupted after Friday's water and gas main breaks by next Wednesday — but it could take up to six weeks before customers see the service restored into their apartments.

More than 8,000 customers were left without service since Aug. 12 when a water main burst at St. Nicholas Avenue and 152nd Street and flooded the gas main. Con Ed has restored service to 3,900 of those customers so far, said Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury.

But because gas lines to buildings and individual apartments must pass integrity tests before service can be restored, some Harlem residents could find themselves without gas for up to six weeks, officials said.

At least 600 of those whose service has been restored haven't seen a change in their status yet, because they're still waiting for repair work to their individual units that must be completed by landlords, Drury added.

Con Edison has had 250 workers, contractors and employees from other gas utilities providing mutual aid, working 24 hours a day to get service restored. The cost of the massive effort has yet to be calculated.

"The goal is to get people restored," said Drury.

To help the large numbers of people without gas, Citymeals-on-Wheels began delivering food to both elderly and non-elderly customers on Frederick Douglass Boulevard from 147th to 155th streets, said Rachel Sherrow, director of programs and community affairs.

The agency provided 2,100 meals yesterday after being contacted by Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement about the need. Some residents were given hot plates, but then were asked not to use them over fears of sparking an explosion, said Sherrow.

"Takeout is expensive and it's not a healthy option. For one day it might be okay but it's not realistic for elderly people on a fixed income," said Sherrow.

Citymeals began funding the delivery of hot meals to the elderly today. Starting Monday, the city's Department of Aging will begin picking up the tab.

Friday's gas main break was caused after a 12-inch water main dating to 1956 burst at St. Nicholas Avenue and 152nd Street. The water flooded the gas main and the street collapsed in what witnesses said sounded like an explosion.

DNAinfo reported Monday that the intersection has a history of complaints. The city's 311 system received more than a dozen calls about everything from potholes, to cave-ins to failed street repairs about the intersection over the last year.

The Department of Transportation asked the Department of Environmental Protection to examine the intersection at least once last year, according to city records. In April, the DOT determined that the street was a good candidate for resurfacing in the next two to three years.

So far, Con Ed has pumped 21,000 gallons of water from the gas main.

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