53 Ludlow Street, where a dozen tenants were left without cooking gas for months. Photo by Daniel Fitzsimmons
Kudos to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for moving to do something about the latest outrage affecting tenants, many of them low income, in New York.
Responding to our story in early March about the surge in gas shutoffs in the city, often targeting rent-stabilized tenants, Brewer has sent a letter to Con Edison, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and city and state regulators looking for answers. “Manhattan's residents -- especially those with low or fixed incomes -- must have cooking gas to feed themselves affordably,” Brewer writes. “Hot plates are not an acceptable long-term substitute.”
Brewer has asked for a full report on all buildings currently without gas service, and an explanation for what's happening to turn it back on. “When will these residents have their gas restored?” she asks in her letter, which has also been sent to the head of the Public Service Commission and the commissioner of housing development. Our reporting, cited in Brewer's letter, uncovered a 400 percent increase in gas shutoffs in 2015, and a disturbing continuation of the trend so far this year. Brewer said her office is working with the residents of three buildings that have been without gas service for months -- one since last September.
It's possible Brewer will find reasonable explanations for the increased shutoffs, including extra vigilence by ConEd in the wake of the fatal East Village gas explosion last year or a legitimate crackdown on landlords siphoning gas through illegal hookups. We'll see.
Our fear, though, is that we'll be forced to add gas shutoffs to poor doors, hidden surveillance cameras, and the myriad other ways that an unaffordable Manhattan has made life miserable for those among us on the bottom end of the income scale.