Tenants at 500 W. 235th St. have been living without gas for months, and one local elected official blames the landlord.
It all started last October when Elbridge Realty Corp., which manages the building for landlord A. Richard Parkoff, told tenants they would lose gas service while work was done on the lines. That work, according to the company’s buildings department permit, was to repair a leak in the seven-story, 87-unit building’s gas system.
But seven months later, the work by Advanced Plumbing, Mechanical and Sprinkler Corp., still is not done, leaving tenants to cope with life without gas. It has left tenants without access to their stoves among other services, all while they wait months for a service provided them by Elbridge in their rental agreement, according to a few tenants.
One tenant, who asked to remain anonymous for fear they may face reprisal from their landlord or management company, said living without gas has been a tremendous hardship, especially since she can’t use her stove.
“Six months ago, they just took off the gas. I don’t know what happened,” she said. “We have been cooking on a hot plate for six months now.”
The gas line work has gone on so long Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz stepped in last week demanding the work be completed. He blamed Elbridge for failing to pressure contractors to finish in a timely fashion.
“The landlord has not done what he needs to do to get the work done,” Dinowitz said. “He has been dragging his feet, and on at least two occasions, failed an inspection by the department of buildings.”
Eldridge, which did not respond to multiple requests for comment, twice sought a government inspection to turn the gas back on, city building officials said, failing both on March 31 and as recently as two weeks ago.
The reason, Dinowitz said, was the gas lines were left exposed after work was completed, a major buildings department violation.
“No one expects this stuff to get done overnight,” he said. “To me, that’s a hardship to have to go such a long period of time without gas.”
During a recent visit to 500 W. 235th, Press journalists were thrown out of the building by a woman who would not identify herself, but was later named by a tenant as the building’s manager.
While there, however, it was clear work was nowhere near complete. Holes in walls and ceilings left gas piping exposed in the lobby and the ground floor hallway.
While the buildings department was due for yet another visit May 16, workers were not on scene fixing these problems just the day before, The Press observed on a second visit..
What can tenants do? Dinowitz seems to have simple answer: Demand lower rent.
Because gas issues are building-wide, the assemblyman said, tenants at 500 W. 235th could file a joint complaint to the state housing department for what he called a diminution of services.
A diminution effectively states that because a vital and previously agreed upon service is no longer being provided — in this case, gas — the tenants should be allowed to pay less rent each month.
“I feel for the tenants,” he said. “We are trying to help them as best as we can.”
But there is one slight problem that stops tenants from wanting to publicly voice complaints, Dinowitz said. Most of them have preferential rents, or rents that are lower than market rate.
Landlords tend to opt for preferential rents if they have trouble filling the building at market rate, and choose to charge less money. But current law doesn’t prevent those same landlords from abruptly kicking those rates back up once a tenant tries to renew the lease.
“He kind of has the tenants over a barrel,” Dinowitz said. “Any tenants that gives him a hard time, he can say, ‘OK, I’ll raise the rents to whatever I can raise the rent to.’”