By Anna Gustafson
Many Douglaston Manor tenants were relieved to learn their gas service was restored this week ï»¿after they had to live for more than a month without gas, forcing them to pay extra money for food and laundry, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said.
“People haven’t been able to use their stoves, burners or dryers,” Halloran told a news conference he held last Thursday. “They’ve been forced to eat out for dinner every night in the middle of a recession. The mere thought that hundreds of New Yorkers would have to deal with an inconvenience of this scale in the year 2010 is mind-boggling.”
As of Monday afternoon, gas service was restored at 64 of the 84 units at Douglaston Manor, and Halloran said Con Edison will work on restoring the other units this week.
Residents first informed Halloran of the outage last week, after which he pressured city officials to return gas service to Douglaston Manor, an 84-unit building at 241-20 Northern Blvd. in Douglaston that houses a number of parents with young children and elderly residents, who were especially hard hit by the outage.
“I have little children,” said Kelly Villella-Canton, a co-op resident. “I can’t boil or do the laundry.”
Residents did not turn to elected officials for help until last week because they said management had assured them they were working on the problem, but the company had run into bureaucracy, Halloran said. In addition to Halloran, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and state Sen.-elect Tony Avella worked to restore gas at the building.
A leak in the building caused the outage, but the city Department of Buildings would not grant the needed permits to fix the problem because officials said the building did not have a certificate of occupancy.
Halloran said there actually was a certificate of occupancy for the building, but it was not on file with the city because the agency did not have updated records.
“Our city’s bureaucracy cost hundreds of New Yorkers basic gas service for over a month,” Halloran said. “The plumbers couldn’t get permits to do this simple work. I called the Department of Buildings and made sure they approved the permits and let the plumbers do their jobs. The inaction was unacceptable, and even worse, it put Thanksgiving in jeopardy for hundreds of my constituents.”
Both he and Padavan worked with the city to ensure they would grant an emergency work order so Con Edison could restore the gas before Thanksgiving. Avella also pressured city officials to move fast to address the problem.
“It’s very important people be able to use their stove and oven for Thanksgiving,” said state Assemblyman-elect Edward Braunstein, who joined Halloran at last Thursday’s event.
Carol Conslato, director of public affairs at Con Ed, said it was pleased to work with the elected officials to make sure residents would no longer have to suffer.
“We’ll be working alongside the Department of Buildings to ensure gas service is safe to be turned back on so residents can once again enjoy cooking,” she said.
A group of residents who joined Halloran at their building last week said they were pleased the service would return but irate that they had to live without gas for a month.
“You’re going out three times a day to eat, you have to do laundry, the cost alone for someone on a fixed income is insane,” said Gary Sangastiano, who has lived in the manor for 26 years. “It’s very frustrating for people.”
Jenna Sangastiano said many people have had to purchase “supplemental appliances” to cook in order to try to save some money and not have to go out to eat every day.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.