Astoria Houses tenants have been without cooking gas for nearly three weeks

Photo via Google Maps

Tenants of an entire Astoria Houses building have gone without cooking gas for almost three weeks — and NYCHA has not provided a specific date for a full restoration as of Wednesday, Oct. 14.

The entire building at 1-04 Astoria Blvd. has been without cooking gas since Sept. 23. NYCHA, which acknowledges that gas service interruptions and restoration work are a matter of public safety, provided one hot plate to each household in the building, and say they are “making additional contingency measures.”

“The gas service restoration process involves multiple partners and steps and we are currently working with an outside vendor to expedite this process,” a NYCHA spokesperson told QNS. “We are regularly providing residents with updates on the progress made towards service restoration.”

NYCHA noted gas service interruptions affect cooking gas only, and is unrelated to heat or hot water service.

Tenants of the building as well as the Justice for All Coalition (JFAC), a community organization based in Astoria and Long Island City, say they are being “kept in the dark” about when the gas will be restored.

“They gave us one hot plate per household. I have a family of four; I don’t know what we’re cooking on a hot plate. I have a fridge full of food, and it takes me five hours to make a meal,” JFAC said one tenant told them.

When QNS asked NYCHA when the gas outage will be restored, they did not provide a date.

Kimberly Elliot is one of the building’s tenants who has not only called on local elected officials for answers, but is also assisting with food distribution.

“I’m just so fed up with what’s going on here,” Elliot said. “All the [officials] have been doing now is getting other people to give us food, hot food, boxes of food — but you still got to cook them. So we’re still going crazy.”

Frontline Foods Queens is one of the local organizations that have hosted food distributions as well as prepared meals (prepared by Astoria restaurant Ornella Trattoria) for Astoria Houses tenants in the last few weeks.

“What we are seeing is how disinvestment in NYCHA has further exacerbated food insecurity for so many people living there. Residents can’t cook for their families and take out is expensive and often unhealthy,” said Evie Hantzopoulos, co-founder of Frontline Foods Queens. “We called upon the Astoria community to cook for the residents to show our love and solidarity. With less than two days’ notice to prepare, we fed an entire building and then some, through home cooked food provided by the community.”

Photo courtesy of Frontline Foods
Photo courtesy of Frontline Foods

JFAC is calling on elected officials to put pressure on NYCHA to get tenants answers and have another vendor immediately come in to complete the job, if needed.

“Hiring vendors can be a timely ordeal for NYCHA. Basically, they need to wait for three bids, and then vet them. This process can take months,” JFAC wrote in a statement. “Tenants need relief now! Electeds must compel NYCHA to speed up this process to resolve this human rights issue now.”

Councilman Costa Constantinides said his office is working with all agencies involved to have the cooking gas restored immediately.

“I am deeply infuriated that Astoria Houses residents have gone nearly three weeks without cooking gas,” he said. “In normal times, Astoria Houses seniors struggled to access quality, warm food — relying on a cramped senior center the city tried to close as the source of their one hot meal each day. Now, in the throes of a global pandemic, when more people are working from home and forced to cook meal after meal for their families, they are left without their stoves. This is shameful on its own. What’s downright unacceptable is that we’ve been told it might take as long as 78 days from the outage to get power restored. Astoria Houses residents deserve better. They are retirees, veterans and civil servants.”