Queens senator says NYCHA should offer ‘prorated rents’ to Astoria Houses tenants without cooking gas

Courtesy of Gianaris’ office

State Senator Michael Gianaris is calling on NYCHA to not only immediately address the cooking gas outage at an entire building in Astoria Houses, but also for the agency to give residents without the service prorated rents.

Tenants of 1-04 Astoria Blvd. have gone without cooking gas for almost three weeks — and NYCHA has not provided a specific date for a full restoration. The agency, 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.”

Senate Deputy Leader Gianaris sent NYCHA Chair Greg Russ a sharply-worded letter this week, writing it is unacceptable for the residents of Astoria Houses to be without cooking gas since Sept. 23, and that they have yet to provide a timeline for a full restoration.

“NYCHA owes New Yorkers answers about this unacceptable situation. Why after three weeks is there still no plan or timeline to restore a basic service to tenants?” said Gianaris. “Impacted NYCHA residents deserve better and should be provided with hot food service and prorated rents for harm caused by this shut off.”

In his letter, Gianaris raised several of the questions tenants have been trying to get answers to, including whether a contractor has been secured.

“If so, who, and what is the timeline for that contractor to execute the necessary work? If not, when can a contractor expect to be secured? Knowing a timeline for resolution is critical,” he wrote.

A NCYHA spokesperson previously told QNS the restoration “involves multiple partners and steps.”

“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.”

He also mentioned the hot plates provided to tenants as an alternative, are “not an acceptable, long-term mitigation strategy for relief to tenants who have been without gas service for weeks.”

Gianaris asked for transparency in the communication of the NYCHA’s efforts toward a resolution, and for a response to his questions in five days.

“Non-socially distant meetings in lobbies of buildings are neither a safe nor efficient way to spread public information during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote.

NYCHA did not respond to QNS request for comment regarding the Senator’s letter.

Earlier in the week, local Councilman Costa Constantinides also called on NYCHA to immediately address the issue.

“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,” said Constantinides. “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.”

In the meantime, community members have offered both hot food and grocery food distributions for the Astoria Houses residents.