‘This is an emergency’: Demonstrators call on NYCHA to restore cooking gas at Astoria Houses

Photo by Dean Moses

About 50 people marched from the Long Island City Courthouse to Astoria Houses to demand NYCHA restore the cooking gas missing from an entire building in the public housing complex on Monday, Oct. 19.

Almost 30 days have passed since tenants at 1-04 Astoria Blvd. filed a ticket about their cooking gas outage. NYCHA told QNS an outside vendor is scheduled to visit Astoria Houses on Oct. 21 and “submit a scope of work outlining the necessary repairs.”

On Monday afternoon, Astoria residents gathered at the LIC Courthouse and gave speeches before the march began.

Dannelly Rodriguez, a community activist and member of the Justice for All Coalition, said that in the last two years, he’s witnessed “overt neglect and gross negligence” that he claims NYCHA created for Black and Brown people living in public housing.

“We’re not going to stop marching. We’re not going to stop advocating. We’re not going to stop hitting the streets until every single public housing tenement in this city is renovated, revamped and giving power to the tenants,” said Rodriguez. “We need resident management corporations, tenant control. We need to make sure that we’re funding NYCHA entirely and that the tenants in each individual houses has autonomy over what’s going on in their projects.”

Photo by Dean Moses

There were no tenants of Astoria Houses at the march, as some speakers noted they feared retaliation from NYCHA. Some residents of Astoria Houses even asked the organizers not to hold the rally.

Roque Rodriguez, a Sunnyside resident and business owner, said that while some Astoria Houses tenants asked him not to have the protest, one tenant gave him a statement to read. The statement detailed how communications from management haven’t been consistent nor transparent with those who live in the building.

The tenant, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were at first told it would be a 24-hour emergency, but they were then told the cooking gas would be out indefinitely.

“Then they told them to go to the office for hot plates. Those who went early got a new one; others got a refurbished one,” Rodriguez read from their statement. “There’s a Maya Angelou quote hanging up next to the elevator in 1-04 Astoria: ‘When we stand up, we must know that we are standing up for everybody. Each of us needs to know, in fact, that we are rainbows in the clouds, for everybody.'”

Photo by Dean Moses

NYCHA gave one hot plate to each household in the building, and say they are “making additional contingency measures.” A spokesperson previously told QNS the restoration involves multiple partners and steps, and that the agency is working with an outside vendor to expedite the process.

Rodriguez said that while they demonstrators rallied to to demand the gas restoration at Astoria Houses, there are other public housing buildings with unsuitable living conditions.

But not having cooking gas and only one hot plate to cook for a family presents bigger problems that cause lingering stress, anxiety and anger, he said.

“We are setting up the Black family for failure, Brown people for failure, people from NYCHA for failure,” said Rodriguez. “People don’t connect the dots between people being able to feed their families, and people going to jail 10 years later … but that’s what’s happening right now. This is an emergency. Emergency means now.”

Protesters chanted “What do we want? Gas! When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it, shut it down,” while marching on Jackson Avenue toward Steinway Street.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

As they marched in Long Island City, someone threw what looked to be a glass bottle from a high-rise building, which smashed on top of a parked car across the street.

Police officers following the march didn’t respond to the incident, with one protester confronting them and saying, “This is why we don’t like you.”

Photo by Dean Moses

The march ended at Astoria Houses.

NYCHA did not respond to a request for comment regarding the protest.

Last week, Councilman Costa Constantinides and state Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris called on NYCHA to restore the cooking gas.

Senator Gianaris wrote a letter to NYCHA Chair Greg Russ, stating the agency must fix the issue immediately and provide residents without the service prorated rents.

Additional reporting by Dean Moses.

This story was updated at 6:26 p.m. on Oct. 20.