Independence tenants could see gas back on sooner than expected
by Lisa A. Fraser
Mar 06, 2012 | 256 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After residents banded together to speak out against the New York City Housing Authority's shutting off of the gas at Independence Towers in Williamsburg, the housing authority has turned the gas back on at the Taylor Street residences.

The rapid restoration comes as a relief for inconvenienced residents, who were told initially that the gas would be turned off for an indeterminate number of days, before being told that it could take up to five weeks.

“I think they needed that kick,” said Pamela Cowherd, one of the residents who organized a meeting among tenants to express their frustration. “We're all feeling better and it's going good.”

On Sunday, February 26, NYCHA was able to get into every apartment to check for asbestos before proceeding to start the process of turning the gas back on.

“Getting into every unit is extremely necessary and we would never skip that step,” said Michael Rosen, senior deputy director at NYCHA.

The inspection was performed without a hitch.

“Everybody made sure they had someone in the apartment, that’s how bad we wanted it,” Cowherd said.

The last of the units had their gas restored on Monday, March 5.

According to NYCHA, the gas was turned off in the building on Tuesday, February 14, after a staff member noticed that there was a leak in the overhead supply line in the basement.

The Housing Authority distributed hot plates for cooking later on that night to every household, but never gave them a specific timeline as to when the gas would be turned back on.

Many of the residents of Independence Towers, where 80 percent of the tenants are Jewish, were fuming over the shut off. Many were concerned about how they would prepare food for the upcoming Purim and Passover holidays.

Two weeks ago, NYCHA staff members, along with Councilman Stephen Levin, met with the residents in the lobby of the building to field their concerns, and promised that the situation would be resolved as quickly as possible.

Levin said that he will try to work with the chairman of NYCHA to compensate residents, whether it be in the form of a rent abatement or a debit card enabling them to buy food they normally eat.

“There are major issues in Independence Towers and essential repairs need to take place,” added District Leader Lincoln Restler.

Although the gas situation was resolved, Restler called on NYCHA tenants to demand the accountability of the housing authority at a rally on Thursday, where residents of other public housing developments rallied for NYCHA to deal with health-hazardous repairs in a timely fashion.

Residents of three other public houses in Brooklyn filed a lawsuit last Thursday against NYCHA to force repairs on the properties of the Farragut, Whitman and Ingersoll Houses.

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