Williamsburg Public Housing Tenants Face Weeks Without Gas

By Meredith Hoffman on February 23, 2012 5:25pm 

Residet Daniel Rodriguez, 77, is one of many Independence Tower tenants who is disturbed at the gas outage.
Residet Daniel Rodriguez, 77, is one of many Independence Tower tenants who is disturbed at the gas outage.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

WILLIAMSBURG—Hundreds of residents at a public housing building on Taylor Street are facing weeks without gas after a leak was discovered in a basement supply line, according to the city housing authority.

But anguished residents at the Independence Towers, at 125 Taylor St., say they were told Wednesday night by housing workers that the wait could be considerably longer — up to a year, they said.

"This is nauseating," said Rachel Smith, who has lived in the building for more than three decades. "Nobody's telling us anything."

New York City Housing Authority spokeswoman Zodet Negrón denied the one-year time frame, estimating instead that it will likely take 4-5 weeks for the gas to be restored after it went out on Feb. 14.

The gas was turned off, she explained, due to a leak in the basement supply line that supplies the whole tower.

"The only way to stop the leak was to shut down service to the entire building," she wrote in an email.

The prospect of not having gas has residents of the 122-unit building, near Bedford Avenue, upset.

Many say the hot plates have broken, caused burns and have been inadequate to provide for their families.

"This isn't to cook, it's only to heat up food," said resident Sol Maria Rivera of a hot plate she carried into the building lobby Thursday afternoon, after her first one failed to work.

Upstairs another woman watched over her sister's pot of chicken soup slowly warming on a newly purchased electric stove.

As soon as the outage occurred, the woman said her sister—a mother of eight—made a beeline to the store to buy the Presto Griddle, but even after four hours the water had not reached a boil.

"I hope things work out!" said the woman. "We're not going to die of hunger, but it's quite a high percentage of stress."

As for the impending Jewish holidays, the Hasidic woman rolled her eyes at the thought of cooking in the apartment without gas.

"I'm definitely worried," she said.

District Leader Lincoln Restler, who rushed to meet with the residents Wednesday night, called the situation "absolutely egregious on the part of the housing authority," and has been pushing the agency to restore the gas immediately.

And State Senator Daniel Squadron expressed similar dismay with the housing authority.

"It's time for NYCHA to come up with a long-term plan to address and prevent these types of outages, which occur far too often," he wrote in an email.

A similar gas outage occurred at the Lower East Side's Smith Houses occurred in November last year.

Negron said details about the timeframe of the gas outage will be provided at a meeting at the building Thursday at 6:30 pm.

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