For the most part, Marcelo Lopez totally digs his Greystone Avenue pad. Except for the fact he basically can’t cook without a major hassle. And it’s been that way for at least the last six months.
In fact, it takes 40 minutes just to boil a pound of pasta on what Lopez described as the “crappy little electric” burner supporting his culinary exploits during the agonizingly long stretch his landlord has failed to restore cooking gas to the building.
As Lopez sees it, it’s gone on way too long. Long enough, in fact, to rile up Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz to push 3804 Greystone Ave., landlord Marcelo Lopez of the Kew Gardens-based Park Drive Management to speed things up, or at the very least offer some sense of what the holdup is and when tenants could expect to have their cooking gas restored.
But not much has changed since that initial push. And while Hoch appears to have said very little to tenants, at least he’s talking to Dinowitz.
“He claims that by next week he’s hoping for ConEd to inspect about half” the building’s 40 or so units, Dinowitz said. “That doesn’t mean they get their gas back right away, but that would be an important step in the process for those people — if that happened.”
But what about the other half? “He also claims that he’s had trouble getting access to some of the units,” the lawmaker said. “Since this has been going on since September, it’s hard to imagine that he hasn’t been able to get access to all the units.”
Whatever the reason, it doesn’t change the fact tenants still can’t really cook except on pitifully inadequate hot plates — particularly onerous in a building Lopez says is filled with families. Meaning weary parents forced to somehow whip up meals for multiple mouths in a couple small pots over meager flames.
And all of that probably won’t change before the first day of spring, Dinowitz predicts. “Looking at it from the point of view of a resident: They either have their gas or they don’t. And right now, they don’t. It’s horrible.”
When Lopez gets home after grueling 12-hour days working as an information technology consultant in Hastings-on-Hudson, the last thing he wants to worry about is cooking on the sad excuse for a stove Hoch provided. Instead, Lopez says he’s basically forced to eat out most meals, meaning in addition to the around $20 he spends on lunch, now he’s shelling out around an additional $20 for dinner.
“It’s been very difficult to manage that budget,” he said.
To make their lives a little easier during the no-gas period, Lopez and his roommates invested $150 in a crockpot and toaster oven — “stress purchases,” he said.
And while the building’s heat seems to be OK for the moment, Lopez believes relying heavily on all those appliances caused their utilities costs to soar, up to $208 for the most recent bill compared to $156 the month prior. And with winter far from over, he’s leery of the fact the building “has a history of heating gas problems.”
But perhaps most aggravating to Lopez, his roommates and their neighbors is what he described as their landlord’s utter lack of communication. Even just keeping them posted would help, Lopez said, but it appears that’s a bit much to ask.
“The landlord basically doesn’t exist,” he said.
A spokesman for Park Drive Management, however, said restoring gas is no snap-of-the-fingers affair, especially for an old building like 3804 Greystone.
“The process to get gas turned back on after a shutoff is not simple,” but involves multiple city agencies and steps, the spokesman said. Although management is “well into” that process — having completed “a significant amount” — the spokesman refused to go into detail about the process.
“I’m doing everything I can to get this done and I don’t have the ability to control the process,” the spokesman added. “We’ve been working on this since the day the gas went out. It’s a long and complicated process to make sure that our tenants are safe in their living space.”
Granted, making sure all the gas lines in a building are running can take time, since it’s crucial to make sure there are no leaks anywhere, which can entail individually pressure-testing lines, and in some cases replacing the gas meters.
Changes in city code may complicate the process further. A pre-war building could even require re-piping and other reconfigurations that probably would leave most non-plumbers scratching their heads. On top of that, any leaking risers also have to be remedied.
In fact, 3804 Greystone’s woes started June 8, when gas was shut off because of a leak, ConEd spokesman Robert McGee said. Yet it wasn’t until Oct. 31 the building’s plumber filed a case with ConEd letting them know he actually intended to restore service.
But in the interim? Crickets, McGee said.
And ConEd can’t restore service until the buildings department has certified a plumber completed necessary repairs and paperwork, McGee added. Only then will ConEd even inspect the building.
Yet ConEd still hadn’t heard anything from Park View Management or their plumber as of last week.
“We still must receive all documentation from a licensed plumber certifying that repairs are complete before we can conduct a final inspection,” McGee said, “and ultimately restore gas service.”
In the meantime Dinowitz says he’s working to ensure tenants know their rights when it comes to lack of gas and other basic services, since living in a rent-stabilized building they can file for a rent reduction with the state’s homes and community renewal agency for the outage.
Regardless, if gas isn’t fixed swiftly, Lopez fears he may have to move once his lease is up next November. Constantly eating out adds up — too much. But he hopes it doesn’t come to that.
“It’s a place that I want to stay,” he said. “The rent’s still pretty cheap. I hate moving. I love the neighborhood. It’s a solid place. I don’t want to lose it.”