New York Times Gas Is Cut Off for Upper East Side Building Amid Violations by Patrick McGeehan

New York Times
New York Times
Gas Is Cut Off for Upper East Side Building Amid Violations
Patrick McGeehan
05/11/2016

 Gilbert Sabater, 80, said that Con Ed first shut off all gas to his building, on 86th Street at Second Avenue, on Thursday evening, and that the service line to the stoves had remained closed since.CreditJoshua Bright for The New York Times

Residents of about 700 apartments on the Upper East Side of Manhattan have been reduced to cooking on hot plates after Consolidated Edison cut off a gas line to their building upon discovering illegal conditions last week.

Both the utility and the New York Fire Department responded to complaints of a gas odor in the building, Yorkshire Towers, on 86th Street at Second Avenue, and found renovation work being done without the proper permits, a spokesman for the city’s Buildings Department said. The department ordered a halt to some of that work until the landlord, UES Management, gets permits and brings the illegal pipes into compliance, he said.

Yorkshire Towers has been roiled by discontent over the piecemeal overhaul of the building, which was bought in 2014 by two real estate firms, the Chetrit Group and Stellar Management, for $395 million.

On Tuesday, the Buildings Department logged two more complaints, including one contending that the landlord was violating the stop-work order it received just a few days before. In all, the department has received 32 complaints about conditions in the building in less than two months.

“We are at war, there’s no question about it,” said Gilbert Sabater, who has lived at Yorkshire Towers for 45 years, of the tenants and their landlord.

Mr. Sabater, 80, said that Con Ed initially shut off all gas to the building on Thursday evening. But on Friday, he said, the company turned the gas-fired furnace back on so tenants could have hot water.

Photo The Buildings Department has received 32 complaints about conditions in the building, Yorkshire Towers, on East 86th Street, in less than two months. CreditJoshua Bright for The New York Times

The service line that supplies gas to the stoves in the apartments had remained shut off, and a spokesman for the landlord said he could not estimate when the gas might be restored. In the interim, UES Management has supplied tenants with electric hot plates for cooking, the spokesman, John Marino, said.

Mr. Marino released a statement saying that the landlord was “working diligently with all appropriate parties,” including the Buildings Department and Con Edison, “to quickly and safely alleviate any gas-related issues at 305 East 86th Street.” Mr. Marino later said UES Management had been granted a permit on Wednesday afternoon to do the repair work.

An image captured by a tenant showed dozens of new hot plates stacked up inside the building over the weekend. But Mr. Sabater said a hot plate was not sufficient, so he bought a toaster oven on Tuesday, an expense he said he would deduct from his rent.

Without it, he said, “how am I going to have my toast?”

Alexander Schnell, a spokesman for the Buildings Department, said Yorkshire Towers currently had eight outstanding violations, but only the most recent involved the plumbing for the natural gas lines. The others, he said, were related to construction work.

Shutting off gas to buildings on the Upper East Side has been a more common occurrence since a gas leak led to an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in East Harlem two years ago, said Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat whose district includes Yorkshire Towers.

“Ever since there was an explosion related to gas, we’ve seen Con Edison being very aggressive with gas shut-offs all over the district,” Mr. Kallos said. “If Con Ed says there’s an issue, we have to trust them.”

His office, he said, has become more adept at persuading Con Ed and the Buildings Department to speed up the process of restoring service as soon as possible after repairs are made.

In the case of Yorkshire Towers, however, the first move will have to be made by the landlord.

“We cannot go back and restore service until a licensed plumber comes out and makes repairs,” Elizabeth Matthews, a spokeswoman for Con Edison, said.

Issue: 
Public Safety