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8,000 Harlem Con Ed Customers Still Without Gas

By Jeff Mays | August 15, 2011 8:00pm
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—At least 8,000 customers have been left without gas as a result of Friday's gas and water main break at St. Nicholas Avenue and 152nd Street, up from the 5,000 Con Edison said were affected by the outage Saturday.

The affected area stretches north from the Harlem River Drive down to 139th Street and east from Frederick Douglass Boulevard to St. Nicholas Avenue. It's unclear when the gas will be restored, according to Con Edison. It was unclear when the additional 3,000 customers lost their gas supply.

"This is going to take some time," said Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee. So far, only 64 customers have had their gas restored.

The New York City Housing Authority said 3,261 families at three complexes— Harlem River, Ralph Rangel Houses and the Polo Ground Towers— are without gas. The agency said its staff members are on site and have been distributing hot plates to residents.

Con Ed has pumped more than 14,000 gallons of water out of the gas lines, said McGee. More than 80 gas mechanics and 11 construction crews, including those from National Grid and Orange and Rockland, are working to restore service. Con Ed crews were spotted all over West and North Central Harlem Monday.

Gas has to be purged from the main lines and then each building and each apartment has to be pressure tested before service can be restored, McGee said. The rain has also slowed down the pace of repairs.

"It is a really painstaking process," said McGee.

Officials from the Department of Environmental Protection said that water had been restored by early Saturday and that the agency was working to replace the 12-inch main that broke and flooded the 8-inch gas main that dates to 1956.

Area residents have said the intersection has long been a trouble spot, DNAinfo reported Monday. More than a dozen calls were placed to 311 about the intersection in 2010 and 2011 requesting the city fix cave-ins, potholes and failed street repairs.

According to city records, the Department of Transportation asked DEP to examine the intersection. DEP said Monday that had no records of working in the area but were still searching their database.

In April, DOT said the "street meets resurfacing standards" and would be put on the schedule "for either the next or future resurfacing seasons (2-3 years)," according to city records.

"There was always a little swoop in the ground, kind of like it was sunken in," said Teresa Spain, a home health attendant who lives on Convent Avenue, a block away from the sinkhole. "I'm not surprised it collapsed."

Spain sat outside Monday waiting for a friend to go to dinner at a local steak restaurant. Even though she has an electric stove, the management of her apartment building has asked her not to use it for fears that it could spark an explosion. The water in her apartment was still "rusty brown" this afternoon, said Spain.

She said Con Ed was not doing enough to keep residents in the know about the progress of repairs. No notices have been placed in her building, she said.

"They've been working out here since Friday but have not informed us of the situation," she said.

McGee said there is a mobile Con Ed unit located at 150th Street and St, Nicholas Avenue from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to help residents.

Still, Spain said she can't wait for the gas to be restored.

"After a while, eating out is tiring. I love cooking in my kitchen," she said.