Con Edison cut the gas to the West 145th Street building—a former cluster site shelter housing dozens of formerly homeless families—on May 14, after inspectors found dangerous corrosion on the line leading to the street. Tenants are still waiting.

Adi Talwar

Residents of 203 West 145th St. in Manhattan in July. They have been without gas or hot water for nearly five months.

For nearly five months, Nancy Burgos has been boiling pots of water on a hotplate so that she and her daughter can take baths inside their Harlem apartment. The daily process has gotten even slower lately, since two of the electric coils burned out, she said.

Con Edison cut the gas to Burgos’ West 145th Street building—a former cluster site shelter housing dozens of formerly homeless families—on May 14, after inspectors found dangerous corrosion on the line leading to the street, a spokesperson for the utility said. It’s the landlords’ responsibility to fix the issue and contact Con Edison to conduct an integrity test before restoring service to the 72-unit property.

So far, that hasn’t happened.

“It’s been four and half months,” Burgos said. “It’s annoying because I have to constantly heat water. It’s time-consuming, and I’m carrying the pots with hot water and sometimes I’m afraid I might get burned.”

Her 19-year-old son is OK with cold showers, she said. But she and her 12-year-old daughter each need four pots of warm water to bathe in the tub.

A representative for the property owner, a limited partnership tied to brothers Jay and Stuart Podolsky, said Monday that the gas should come back online any day now. In July, the same representative told City Limits it would take about a month.

“The plumber is putting in the gas authorization today or tomorrow. That’s for the hot water and the heat,” said the man, who identified himself as Tony Coppola, on Monday. “If the authorization is issued by [the Department of Buildings] Thursday or Friday of this week, then Con Ed will go out.”

“This is moving along,” he added.

Jerry Ferreras, the person identified as property agent on building records, declined to comment when contacted for this story.

For several years until 2019, the six-story building at 203-211 West 145th St. served as a cluster site shelter—temporary housing inside privately owned, and often unsafe, apartments.

The Podolskys made millions off the city’s cluster site program, even after the pair were accused of harassing low-income tenants and driving them out of rent-stabilized units in order to secure city contracts.

Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged in 2017 to end the cluster site program, which paid big money to property owners in exchange for temporary shelter in often egregious conditions. He has nearly succeeded, phasing out all but a handful of cluster buildings—in part by purchasing the derelict properties from the Podolskys and other landlords and turning them into permanent apartments run by nonprofits. Tenants sign annual leases and their rents are paid by city housing subsidies.

That initiative has earned praise from advocates, but problems persist across the network of former clusters. In this case, it’s a months-long gas and hot water outage.

Con Edison spokesperson Allan Drury said the utility hasn’t heard from the owners or the building manager about the gas line repairs. Con Edison reached out and left a message in July following an inquiry from City Limits, he said.

“We’re ready to work with the customer to conduct an integrity test and inspection and take any necessary steps to get gas turned back on once we get confirmation that repairs have been made,” Drury added.

A Department of Buildings (DOB) spokesperson said the agency has not yet received a gas authorization request from the plumber hired to fix the problems so that service can resume. DOB reached out to the plumber and left a message asking for a time frame, but has not heard back, he said.

“We will continue to expedite any applications or inspection requests associated with this job,” said DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky.

In the meantime, Burgos and other tenants continue to wait—with heat season right around the corner.

“It’s starting to get cold out,” she said. 

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