MIDTOWN — Talk about Happy Holidays.
Hot running water began to flow a week before Christmas and heat rose through the pipes just before New Year's for the chilled tenants living without heat or hot water for nine months above the shuttered Carnegie Deli.
Tenants Elsie and Pasquale Forino had spent 57 years living happily amid the wafting smells of pastrami and corned beef before the deli was shut by the city.
Con Edison cut off the gas in April after finding the restaurant hooked up an illegal line that was stealing fuel, and then the city insisted the owners not only pay fines, but upgrade all the building's pipes to modern standards.
“I can’t tell you how it felt to get back into a shower and feel hot water running around me,” said Elsie, 83, who was boiling small pots of water on a single electric hot plate to wash every couple of days. “Pat (Pasquale) said it was a wonderful Christmas present. It felt unbelievable."
And when the heating system suddenly rattled back to life, the Forinos could shed layers of clothing and turn off the three space heaters they purchased as their chilly four-room apartment finally felt warm.
"It was colder inside the apartment than outside," Pasquale said. "We slept beneath four covers at night."
"Elsie is not as good with the cold as me,” he said of his wife of 61 years, who has been suffering from recent health issues. “She needed four sweaters. I only needed two.”
As for food, the Forinos boiled water for tea and cooked meager meals on their hot plates, and now are waiting for the gas to return for cooking.
Her first cooked meal will likely be pasta with a sauce, Elsie said.
A Housing Court judge set deadlines for the return of services. Jan. 8 is earmarked for restoring cooking gas, said the Forinos lawyer, Tamara Saltzman of Kellner, Herlihy, Getty, and Friedman.
The owners are struggling to meet the deadline given the array of tests required on the pipes. Sources say they are willing to reimburse tenants for any cooking equipment they purchase if they cannot make the deadline.
Meanwhile, legions of sandwich lovers are left to wonder when the Carnegie Deli will re-open.
Since it closed, New Yorkers and tourists alike can be seen peering past the various city inspector notices on the storefront windows, and longing for the sight of giant-sized sandwiches, strawberry blintzes and sour pickles.
A Con Edison spokesman said the agency has signed off on the building’s gas lines.
The deli, meanwhile, has paid thousands of dollars in fines and completed repair work to satisfy city inspectors who are being extra careful, on the heels of a deadly explosion caused by another illegal hookup that destroyed several East Village buildings and killed two people.
Maintenance workers and cleaners have been seen tidying up the floors, wiping down the deli’s counters and sprucing up the place.
Cristyne Nicholas, a spokeswoman for Marian Harper, the deli's and building's owner, says they are shooting for an opening sometime early this year.