East Village diner Stage Restaurant has temporarily shuttered and tenants are without gas after shady gas piping was discovered in its basement earlier this week.
Tim Neithercott, a tenant of 128 Second Avenue, told us that his landlords would intermittently turn off the building's gas during renovations, but that Con Ed was never notified, suggesting the landlord was doing so independently. "They've definitely been tampering with the gas on their own," Neithercott says, and indeed, on Sunday, a Con Edison inspector discovered that a new gas pipe was being installed on site without a permit.
In an email, a spokesman for the utility company confirmed that "A Con Edison supervisor working near 128 2nd Ave. received an on-site notification of a gas odor. A crew found a gas leak at the address while plumbing work was in progress. The crew made the area safe and shut off and locked the gas service."
The Department of Buildings has since issued a Stop Work Order on the building, noting that inspectors "observed in cellar worker installing new gas pipe and new elbows and valve" without a permit.
Tenants of 128 Second Avenue, located across the street from the site of the gas explosion that crumbled three buildings and killed two men last week, say they've been struggling with proprietor Icon Realty since the management company took over the building in 2013.
"I guess there was a miscommunication with Con Edison, because they wanted to shut off the gas then," says Neithercott, who is one of the heads of the building's Tenants Association. "Eventually they went through a construction phase after trying to get people out of the building. After they were successful in doing that, they started renovating different apartments and it became a nightmare from there."
Some of the building's tenants say they've heard they may be without gas for six to 12 months. EV Grieve first reported the stop work order yesterday.
"Tenants have had issues from the get-go," Yonatan Tadele, a community organizer with the Cooper Square Committee, told us. He noted that since Icon took over in 2013, landlords had been taking rent-stabilized tenants to court, then terrorizing remaining tenants with lengthy renovations, frequent gas shutdowns and other quality-of-life issues. The Cooper Square Committee is assisting the tenants in filing actions in housing court for repairs in services.
Though the building has been plagued by gas issues for years—Neithercott tells us that one market-rate apartment has been without heat since its tenants moved in—residents are particularly concerned about the building in light of last week's explosion, the suspected cause of which was an illegally tapped gas line in the basement of 121 Second Avenue. "The response after the disaster last week has been—it's been a big response," Tadele told us. "We've heard back from tenants associations asking, 'What can I do in my building to make sure that doesn't happen?'"
Neithercott says tenants are worried about the amount of renovation work going on in the building. "I don't want to speculate, but having witnessed who they brought in to do construction, I don't really think these are serious trained professionals," he told us, noting that permits posted on the building's door prior to the explosion on Thursday were gone by the time he got back to his residence that afternoon. "They were all ripped off. By the end of the weekend, the remnants were gone as well," he said, adding that workers did not come in to do construction that Friday or the following Monday.
In addition to the inconsistent (now non-existent) heat and gas, tenants of 128 Second Avenue are petitioning against the lack of fire alarms in common areas, a broken and unhinged fire escape, a broken front door that has reportedly contributed to a number of thefts, and issues with water drainage, dust and debris.
A spokesperson from Icon Realty told us they were unable to comment on the tenants' allegations at this time. Roman Diakun, Stage's owner, could not be reached for comment.