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UES Residents Live Without Gas for 10 Months With No End in Sight, They Say

By Shaye Weaver | February 18, 2016 1:19pm
 Residents of 129 E. 97th St. have been without gas for almost 11 months.
Residents of 129 E. 97th St. have been without gas for almost 11 months.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

UPPER EAST SIDE — Residents in an apartment building on East 97th Street have lived without gas for more than 10 months  —  and it's costing them thousands of dollars, they say.

To make matters worse, the residents say their landlord has left them in the dark as to when their gas service will be turned back on.

Retired veteran Stefan Baines, 58, who lives in the 12-unit walk-up at 129 E. 97th St. sat in his kitchen lamenting his useless stove on Wednesday.

"On Thanksgiving, I couldn't cook meals. I'm spending money to eat out and they won't help us," he said.

A few floors above Baines, two roommates in their 20s, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said they've spent thousands of dollars on take-out and restaurants and they've had enough.

"It's a big, big issue," one of them said. "I can't imagine for this not to be their first priority. It's inexcusable."

Con Edison shut the gas off in April because of a gas leak and it has not been turned back on yet because the building owner's plumber still hasn't submitted paperwork to the utility showing the leak has been fixed, according a Con Ed spokesman.

Once the paperwork is in, Con Ed will test the line and turn the gas back on if it passes the test, he said.

The building passed the DOB's gas authorization inspection on Feb. 16, according to a DOB spokesman. 

But the roommates said they've had to pester Peter Camilleri of the Mautner-Glick Corporation, which manages the building, to get any updates on the status of the gas leak.

"We have to hound them to get any sort of information or to even speak to them," one of the roommates said.

"They've been very consistently unrealistic and unhelpful in terms of making a clear timeline and giving us adult expectations," the second roommate explained. "It's like they're just kind of doing what they can to stay afloat and tend to give messy explanations. There's a lot of blaming Con Ed."

Since June 22, building management has slipped notices under each apartment door to update tenants about the gas situation, but fewer were sent out as time went on, the residents said.

Camilleri sent the first notice out to tell residents the company would compensate each unit $50 a month for the lack of gas.

The company also bought its tenants hot plates to cook on in the meantime, the residents said.

On July 7, the building's water was shut off for plumbing work and a week later Con Ed was on the scene to install new electrical meters, according to Camilleri's notices.

Then in August, residents received a letter notifying them that plumbers were testing and repairing the gas lines.

But the gas remains shuttered, and in a Jan. 21 notice, Camilleri said the building was still in the process of dealing with Con Ed.

"It has been extremely difficult to deal with Con Ed, we have given them the required inspection signoffs, plans and permits and any additional items that they request only to have them request additional items," Camilleri wrote. "I believe now they have all that they need to move forward with the gas restoration."

On Thursday, Neal Sigety, who has owned the walk-up for more than a decade, told DNAinfo New York that the gas will be turned back on as soon as Con Ed returns for a final inspection and that working with the utility and the city’s Department of Buildings has been a long and frustrating experience.

“We've spent thousands of dollars on plumbers, filing fees, engineering fees, and rent credit, but the landlord is always wrong," Sigety said. “I can't just go and turn on the gas. If there was a leak it would be our fault.”

Once the gas returns, Sigety said he promises to foot all gas bills moving forward.

Until then, the building management's efforts to make peace by taking $50 off rent isn't enough, considering what residents have been through, tenants said.

"The $50 don't compare to what I spend buying food," Baines said. "I have to plug in the hot plate to an outlet that sparks when I push it in too much. It's dangerous and I get angry that I can't cook. I can't take it no more."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Mautner-Glick as the owner of the building. Mautner-Glick is the building's managing company.