Hoylman: Restaurants are taking the heat for delayed gas service

Frank’s Trattoria went without gas for eight weeks earlier this year following a gas leak at a nearby building. It is still in business, though others that have gone through lengthy periods without gas were less fortunate. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this year, Frank’s Trattoria, a pizzeria and restaurant across from Peter Cooper Village, went eight weeks without gas to cook with following a gas leak at a neighboring building. The roughly two months spent without gas was due to delays in getting inspections from Con Ed as well as getting all the necessary paperwork from Department of Buildings. The owners at the time told Town & Village they were trying to stay afloat by cooking what menu items they could using electric stoves they purchased. However, they still lost a lot of business since they couldn’t make pizza that way and because the portable stoves took longer to cook with, some customers would choose not to wait.

The owners told us they didn’t even know how much they lost, but it’s possible the amount was $140,000.

Apparently, this is the average loss to Manhattan businesses that had the same problem in recent years, who also had an average wait of 68 days for the gas to go back on. Those figures are the result of a study conducted by the office of state Senator Brad Hoylman, with owners of businesses being interviewed through a survey.

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Con Ed crew at work on East 14th Street in wee hours on Tuesday

Con Ed trucks on East 14th Street (Photo by Sherman Sussman)

By Sabina Mollot

With construction a constant in Manhattan, some residents have the misfortune of hearing trucks back up, pile drivers pound and re-directed motorists curse as the soundtracks to their day. However, one resident of Stuyvesant Town, who lives down the street from the Extell development site and across the street from Con Ed, reached out to us after being woken up at 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday due to work crews on the street.

According to Sherman Sussman, it was at that time that he saw a crew in Con Ed trucks doing non-emergency work in front of 635 East 14th Street. He knew it was non-emergency work after heading downstairs and speaking with the foreman. There were also other trucks idling for over 15 minutes by then, he told us.

“We have been putting up with construction noise both from the site on 14th Street and Avenue C as well as the L train tunnel reconstruction and some sort of Water Authority construction at East 13th Street and Avenue C for months,” he said in an email. “Work often starts at 6:30 a.m. It has become our alarm often for six days a week, not that there aren’t the occasional Sunday mornings!”

As for Con Ed, since the area that is being worked on is already blocked off from traffic, Sussman said he couldn’t understand why it couldn’t be done when the other projects, or rather, “the usual cacophony of noise,” begins each day.

In response to his request, Town & Village reached out to Con Ed, where a spokesperson, Sidney Alvarez, confirmed that the work wasn’t due to an emergency but was affiliated with the ongoing L train reconstruction project that’s already taken over an island on East 14th Street. Other agencies besides the MTA were also involved.

Specifically, the work was aimed at cleaning a manhole with a vacuum truck, which was likely the source of the noise. Alvarez said the reason it was being done at night is because if it were to be done during the day, the project would require closing off or redirecting traffic, which would require a permit. However, he added, following Town & Village’s query as well as the Con Ed crew’s verbal “exchange” with Sussman, work times will be shifted from the current, wee hours to 3-11 p.m., although Alvarez admitted he didn’t know how soon the schedule would reflect this decision.  Alvarez was also unsure of why the manhole needed cleaning but said there could be a number of reasons, like dialectic (mineral) fluid or debris getting inside.

Haven Plaza to become more disaster-resistant

The building to be located at 13th Street and Avenue C broke ground last month. (Rendering courtesy of CTA Architects)

By Sabina Mollot

When Superstorm Sandy struck nearly five years ago, the buildings at Haven Plaza, a low and middle-income apartment complex located a block south of Stuyvesant Town, incurred massive damage. Following an explosion at the nearby Con Ed generating plant, Haven Plaza’s electrical system shorted out. Along with everyone else living in the adjacent communities, residents of Haven Plaza’s 371 apartments were trapped without elevator service, electricity or heat. Men and women of the National Guard shared field rations with residents, many of them seniors, until the power returned.

Following the disaster, the property underwent a much-needed $50 million overhaul in repairs and renovations. This included work on roofs and elevators that had to be replaced.

Then last month, another major project with a price tag of nearly $10 million began aimed at preventing future disaster-related damage on the property.

That project is a new, two-story infrastructure building designed to be disaster-resistant as well as associated resiliency upgrades at the complex, which is located on Avenue C between 10th and 13th Streets.

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New entrance at Madison Square Park will highlight monument

A landscape renovation will make the Eternal Light monument, pictured during a Memorial Day ceremony, a focal point of the park. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has announced it will be creating a new park entrance at 24th Street for the Eternal Light Flagstaff.

The conservancy shared the plan at a flag-raising ceremony that was held just ahead of Memorial Day last Thursday.

The conservancy will be working with the United War Veterans Council and the Parks Department to renovate the landscape in the park and give the monument, which is located inside the park facing Broadway at 24th Street, street-facing prominence.

“We have to honor our veterans,” City Councilman Dan Garodnick said, who was at the event. “This is the single most important monument for veterans in New York City and it should be a focal point in the park.”

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Con Ed continues oil spill clean-up

Con Ed substation in Manhattan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Con Edison and environmental contractors have continued a clean up effort this week after insulating oil leaked into the East River when a transformer in a Brooklyn substation failed last Sunday.

Spokesperson Allan Drury told Town & Village that the utility has removed 560 gallons of the oil from the water, and Con Edison is also removing soil from the substation that has soaked up oil from the spill.

Since heavy rain is forecast for this weekend, Con Edison will also be securing the impacted area around the transformer so there is no additional saturation that could cause more oil to seep into the river.

Con Edison is working to remove the damaged transformer and expects to replace it with a new unit by next week.

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Oil spills into East River after Con Ed transformer failure

May11 Con Ed

Con Ed substation in Manhattan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A failure of equipment at a Con Ed substation in Brooklyn has led to a so far unknown amount of oil to leak into the East River.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been responding to the problem since it was reported on Sunday afternoon, though as of Tuesday afternoon, it was unclear if the substance, dielectric fluid, was still leaking into the river in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The fluid, which is used to insulate transformer cables, is a kind of mineral oil, so “It’s not like sludge or petroleum,” said Coast Guard Public Affairs Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy. However, she added, “It’s still not native to the environment it’s leeching into.”

Additionally, while the Coast Guard is not aware of just how much of the oil has been spilled so far, she referred to the failure of a Con Ed transformer that led to the incident as “catastrophic.

“The transformer is caput,” she added.

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Gas finally back on at Frank’s

Frank’s Trattoria on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Frank’s Trattoria on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Frank’s Trattoria, the First Avenue restaurant and pizzeria that had been operating without gas for eight weeks, finally got it switched back on. The gas came back on last Wednesday afternoon, which meant that once again the owners, the Pino family, were able to make pizza and other foods that couldn’t be prepared efficiently using just electric stoves.

Restaurant manager Marcello Vasquez told Town & Village once the gas came back on at around 2 p.m. word quickly got around and the restaurant got busy again.

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First Avenue restaurant hasn’t had gas in eight weeks (UPDATED)

Frank’s Trattoria on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Frank’s Trattoria on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

UPDATE at 3 p.m.: According to the manager, the gas was turned on at 1 p.m. today and pizza is once again available.

By Sabina Mollot

At a pizzeria and restaurant across from Peter Cooper Village, a gas shutdown is responsible for taking the business’s bread and butter for the past eight weeks.

That’s when the gas was shut off at Frank’s Trattoria by Con Ed, and since then the First Avenue business has been able to cook some of its dishes after bringing in four electric stoves, although pizza still can’t be prepared there. A manager, Marcello Vasquez, told Town & Village pizza accounted for close to half of Frank’s business. As for the other meal options, the restaurant’s lost business there too because it takes longer to cook with the electric stoves and customers aren’t always willing to wait, Vazquez explained.

He added that the problem started when a building on the corner of East 21st Street had a gas leak on December 18, leaving the restaurant, between East 21st and 22nd Streets, with inadequate gas to cook with. The owners called Con Ed who said the leak was coming from Frank’s and said the restaurant needed a new meter. The gas was then shut off.

But Vazquez now believes it was a mistake to call Con Ed instead of first calling a plumber. The restaurant did later have a plumber come and replace the pipes. The employee said on Friday he was since told that the gas could come back on Monday or Tuesday. “But,” he added, “we already have seven weeks. This is crazy.”

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Three PCV buildings lose power, since restored, due to smoke condition in wiring

(Photo via Wikipedia)

(Photo via Wikipedia)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, an electrical short in some underground wiring caused a power outage in three buildings in Peter Cooper Village.

At around 12:20 a.m. the short caused smoke to start billowing out of two manhole covers located between 2 Peter Cooper Road and 510 East 23rd Street, according to a Facebook post from property management. The buildings 3, 4 and 5 Peter Cooper Road were then left without power and heat.

A resident at 3 Peter Cooper told Town & Village she was told by public safety officers that there was a transformer fire impacting the building. However, a spokesperson for the FDNY couldn’t confirm the presence of fire as opposed to just smoke conditions to T&V.

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Rendering, details announced about new building for R&S Strauss site

Rendering of 644 East 14th Street

Rendering of 644 East 14th Street

By Sabina Mollot

Progress is being made to turn the former R&S Strauss site into a residential building.

Opal Holdings purchased the site of the former auto parts shop – across the street from Stuyvesant Town at 644 East 14th – in July.

The owner has since secured a $52 million first mortgage loan. The announcement was made by Madison Realty Capital, the firm that provided the financing, who also provided some details about the future building.

The plans for 644 East 14th Street include 50 residential units, 8,064 square feet of retail space with 200 feet of frontage on 14th Street and Avenue C, and 21,575 square feet of community facility space. Residential units (it wasn’t clear if they’d be co-ops, condos or rentals) will offer contemporary finishes and large balconies with East River views.

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East River flood protection plan extended to 25th St.

Meeting attendees in 2015 look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Meeting attendees in 2015 look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The plan to provide flood protection to the community along the East River has shifted design elements from East 23rd Street to 25th Street due to complications with the intersection in the original plan. The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency announced the changes to the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) plan in a task force meeting with Community Boards 3 and 6 on Tuesday night.

Representatives from the Office of Recovery and Resiliency as well as the urban design team working on the project have spoken at community meetings previously about the plan, the goal of which is to provide flood protection from Montgomery Street to East 23rd Street, incorporating floodwalls and an elevated park.

Carrie Grassi, Deputy Director for Planning at the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said that the “tieback” was moved to East 25th Street because East 23rd Street is a technically difficult area.

“We’re trying to come up with an alternative that doesn’t make that intersection worse,” she said.

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PSLL wins 3 championship titles

The 12-year-old majors division team members celebrate their championship. (Photo by Jeff Ourvan)

The 12-year-old majors division team members celebrate their championship. (Photos by Jeff Ourvan)

In an unprecedented streak of Little League World Series tournament victories, the local Peter Stuyvesant Little League (PSLL) recently brought home three Manhattan and New York City championship banners. The wins included, for the first time in PSLL’s history, a New York City championship, simultaneous Manhattan championships for the 11 and 12-year-old and 9 and 10-year-old baseball squads, and the second consecutive year in which the PSLL 9 and 10-year-old tournament team secured the Manhattan championship.

“Thanks to some very talented and dedicated players, these players’ parents, and improved coaching opportunities in PSLL, we’ve started to produce winning teams over the past three to four years,” said Jeff Ourvan, the PSLL president.

Ourvan added that winter clinics the players got to participate in the Courts at Stuy Town were “a particularly huge boost,” as was Con Edison’s support of the league’s field requests through the spring and summer.

“It really takes a large community effort to support so many kids in this way,” Ourvan said, “and we’re so grateful we can respond to that support with what’s now becoming a winning tradition.”

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Criminals posing as Con Edison workers to get into people’s homes

Feb25 Con Ed

Con Ed plant (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

 

Following an incident in which a man robbed an elderly woman at knifepoint in Coney Island by pretending to be an employee of Con Edison, the utility has issued a warning to New Yorkers to be wary of anyone claiming to be from the company and needing access to their apartments.

The Brooklyn robbery also followed other similar crimes, Allan Drury, a spokesperson for Con Ed said, noting that scammers have used the company’s name those times too.

Last Monday, a pair of thugs claiming to be from Con Ed got into a woman’s home before sexually assaulting her while her daughter was in the house, Pix11 reported. The 26-year-old victim was tied to a table and sexually assaulted.

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Letters to the Editor, Jan. 21

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Con Ed blocking Ave. C parking spots

Dear T&V,

I have a complaint about a parking situation currently happening on East 16th Street just south of Avenue C. This street is located between two properties belonging to Con Edison. The block has public parking spaces for about 15 cars as regulated by D.O.T. signage.

For the last couple of weeks, Con Ed has been placing cones in the street prohibiting people from parking there. (Except perhaps their own employees or contractors.) They even employ an outside agency of some sort to have someone stand there and tell people they can’t park there. There are no work order notices or temporary suspension indication on the street parking signs. There is no digging or other signs of work taking place. They have parked a large generator on the street for some time and they recently added a second one.

Recently I sought parking there around 5:45 p.m. and the street was empty. The cones were out and I was told there was no parking allowed. Forty-five minutes later, still looking for a spot, I found several passenger cars parked there with cones placed on top. They were okay to park there, I guess? Friends of Con Ed?

I am a resident of Stuyvesant Town who uses a car for work each day. Parking is difficult enough without Con Ed taking over a public thoroughfare without any apparent permits to do so. Is Con Ed just doing as they please because they can? Have they secured the proper authority to take over public parking? Why are there no postings of temporary work permits? Do they intend to “take over” this space permanently and further diminish the availability of street parking? This would lead to a host of other quality of life issues.

Thank you for your assistance in looking into this matter.

Name withheld, ST

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2015: A look back

A coyote (not the one pictured) was spotted in Stuyvesant Town in January.

A coyote (not the one pictured) was spotted in Stuyvesant Town in January.

By Sabina Mollot

Capped with yet another sale of Stuyvesant Town — this time with the highest price tag ever at $5.45 billion — 2015 was certainly an eventful year for the community.

Town & Village has taken a look back to find the top ten local events of the year.

1. The highly anticipated sale of course was a big one, with the deal being cheered as part of Mayor de Blasio’s campaign platform promise to preserve or build 200,000 units of affordable housing. The sale to new owners The Blackstone Group came as welcome news to many tenants due to its representatives’ willingness to listen to tenant concerns as well as a commitment to preserve 5,000 units of affordable housing. While for others — specifically, tenants in the other 6,200-plus units, the deal simply maintains the status quo of stabilized status with market rate tents. Blackstone has promised additional announcements early in the New Year, which hopefully will include a decision, made in cooperation with the city, of how people can get a lease to the affordable units as they become available.

2. Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, while always known as a bird sanctuary and a habitat for the world’s most well-fed squirrels, also managed to attract the attention of a coyote. The young female coyote, named Stella by Parks reps who rescued her, had been found wandering around the Avenue C side of the property near the Con Ed plant. She was captured by police officers, and then later released by the Parks department into a wooded area in the Bronx.

A Parks official T&V interviewed about the incident said that coyote sightings in the city are becoming more common, and she expected that this trend would only continue. Just a couple of weeks prior to the Stuy Town sighting, another coyote was found in Riverside Park, and in 2011, another coyote had wandered into Tribeca.

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