Just shy of thirty five percent of gas-related complaints filed with the Department of Buildings in the last year never resulted in an inspector getting up close and personal with the pipes, WNYC reports.
Con Ed's inspection responsibility does not extend past the building's meter, and city inspectors often have difficulty accessing buildings to conduct more in-depth probes of gas pipes inside a structure.
Timothy Hogan, the DOB's Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement, told WNYC that a city inspector will respond to said complaints in three hours or less. However, WNYC's analysis of complaints filed with the Department of Buildings shows that since 2013, a full third of these complaints have been dismissed because the inspector couldn't gain access to the building.
Here's a map of gas complaints dismissed since 2013 because an inspector couldn't gain access. WNYC explains, "If the official is unable to enter the property after repeated visits, the complaint is listed as closed." In Queens, over half of such calls have been dismissed.
Reports of illegal gas tampering and leaks have gone way up since the East Village explosion on March 26th, which ultimately leveled three buildings, leaving two dead and dozens injured. For a sense of what the city is up against when it comes to tackling leakage, WNYC offered the following statistic:
In New York City, there are currently 1,246 active master plumbers, licensed professionals who are the only ones allowed to install gas lines and have the authority to inspect them for safety in lieu of a DOB inspector. There are more than 800,000 buildings in the city.
Meanwhile, the city's Department of Investigation is also addressing the gas leak issue. Last week, it began working with Con Ed, the DOB, and the Manhattan district attorney to track down illegal natural-gas hookups, one of which may have been to blame for the East Village explosion. The Carnegie Deli was temporarily shuttered last Friday and today, the NY Times reports, Con Ed inspectors will present its faulty plumbing to city investigators. Inspectors believe that a Y-shaped piece of pipe taken from Carnegie's basement was used to "misappropriate natural gas for six years."
The Stage Restaurant, a diner in the East Village, met a similar fate earlier this month.