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Harlem Residents Frustrated After Building's Gas Shut Down

By Gustavo Solis | October 14, 2014 7:43am

HARLEM — After nearly two weeks without cooking gas, residents of an 85-unit apartment complex are growing frustrated.

Con Edison shut off the fuel at 263 W. 153rd St. on Oct. 2 because of a leak, the utility and resident Cassie Mebane confirmed Monday.

Since then, occupants said they have seen the food in their refrigerators spoil and their wallets shrink from the takeout bills. The utility and the management company promised that the gas would be restored Friday, but it was still out Monday evening.

“I’ve been spending money every day, about $120, on food,” said Mebane, 34, who lives with her two daughters and husband. “It’s been chaotic. Gas is included in the rent, we should be compensated.”

Mebane, an ultrasound technician, tried to find out when the service will be restored, but has only gotten conflicting stories. The management company said that Con Edison didn't show up for a Friday inspection.

Meanwhile, the utility company said they did show up but the building failed the test, Mebane said.

Regardless of who was at fault, the issue is hurting Mebane's family. One of her daughters has food allergies and cannot eat dairy, corn, wheat or nuts. 

The family has been looking for cheap places to dine, but Mebane has to make sure none of the food is cooked with peanut oil.
"We're trying to find an all-you-can-eat buffet but it's hard because she can't eat certain things," Mebane said.

Con Ed spokeswoman Elizabeth Matthews said the company cannot turn on the gas after a reported leak unless the landlord gets a plumber to inspect the building to ensure the problem has been corrected.

Because of Monday’s holiday, she could not verify if such an inspection had taken place.

On Thursday, the management company, Winn Residential, send out a letter to residents saying Con Ed was going to inspect the building the next day. Many residents had to request the day off from work, said Monica Jones, 28.

"The landlord told us all to stay home on Friday, if we did not they would drill out the apartment lock to gain entry," she said. "We all stayed home and no Con Edison. The management left early on Friday and would not take our phone calls."

Instead Winn Residential posted a letter on the front door.

“Please be advised that Con Ed was supposed to conduct a gas inspection on 10/10/14 but did not show up,” reads a flier. “We do not have any further information on when the gas will be back on as of now.”

Winn Residential and the Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, which owns the building, did not return requests for comment.

Residents argued that the management company is not working hard enough to solve the problem.

"The building should pressure Con Ed to get the gas back on," Jones said.

For the inconvenience, residents were given pizza — one slice per person — and a frozen meal over the weekend. But It's not enough to compensate for the added cost of having to buy prepared foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Mebane said.

"I'm saving my receipts," she added.

There have been eight complaints about the gas outage filed to the city's Department of Housing and Preservation Development since Oct. 6.

According to the Department of Buildings, the last time 263 W. 153rd St. had a plumbing inspection was August 2008.