“You can’t do anything,” said O’Dwyer resident Roberta Rankins. “You can’t wash your head, do dishes, or mop your floor. It’s disgusting because when I pay the rent, they say that light and gas and hot water is included, but we don’t have it.”
Without access to stoves and ovens, NYCHA has given residents one electric hot plate per apartment, according to residents and flyers. But workarounds to find solutions to feed themselves and their families with the equipment have cost tenants additional thousands of dollars over the months that the gas has been out, according to residents.
“We have to use the hot pot, something like that, and it’s not enough. I want my stove because I like to cook, I’m so used to cooking or making something in the oven,” said Ramirez. “It’s not the same. It’s horrible.”
Alexandra Silversmith, the executive director of the nonprofit group the Coney Island Alliance, ran a 2021 Thanksgiving food drive, during which she said local NYCHA residents rejected the food.
“They didn’t want the turkey during our drive because they couldn’t cook,” said Silversmith during a December interview. “There’s a level of suffering that is not being acknowledged at all. The construction has been taking forever, the lines are not there to run the gas.”
By late February, a city-sponsored hot food truck also began delivering meals to impacted residents. These trucks, organized by Frontus, were slated to offer food on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The initiative lasted for at least three months, but the problem persists.
In the agency’s response flyer posted in early July to O’Dwyer Building 5, NYCHA explains that “on average, gas outages last three months,” and that before service can be restored, the agency is legally required to repair the leaks and replace piping in every apartment, a process which involves a private contractor entering and staying in the apartment without tenants present.
“Somebody told me the lines would be fixed in 2023,” Jackson said during an April interview, when asked if NYCHA had given her an estimated completion date on the gas lines. “But if it’s not that, it’s the heat, or the elevators, or the water. The heat is terrible.”