Kristy Arroyo cooks with a pounding heart. She races around her kitchen from one hot plate to the next, unplugging the one that boils hot dogs so that she can start the one for potatoes. She has not forgotten the time when she left too many of the electric burners on at once, and smoke poured out of the wall’s outlet, as her three children played on the floor.

“I have to be cautious,” Arroyo, 33, said. “It’s not easy.”

Arroyo is forced to assemble dinners for her family every night using temporary electric burners, because the building where she lives, 454 Bedford Avenue on Williamsburg's Southside, has been without cooking gas for over a year. Taped to Arroyo’s apartment door, a poster reads in black and red marker: “Turn on our stoves!”

Ever since two high-profile gas explosions in New York City—one in East Harlem that killed eight people in 2014 and another in the East Village that killed two people in 2015—ConEdison is quick to turn off a building’s gas if there is any sign of danger. There were 779 gas shut-offs in New York City in 2016, up from 67 in 2014, according to the city's Department of Buildings.

But housing advocates, lawyers and tenants say this trend toward caution is having a harmful effect on many low-income and rent-stabilized tenants, who sometimes do not see their gas restored quickly. One building in the Lower East Side—529 East 6th Street—went 15 months without gas. A co-op in Chelsea was partially without gas for eight months in 2015.

Often, they say, this has become another tool used by landlords to push out tenants in order to fill apartments with others willing and able to pay more.

If she had the means to move, Arroyo would be long gone. An accomplished cook of Puerto Rican dishes, Arroyo is forced to feed her children simpler meals, like hot dogs and French fries. Even that takes hours, because it can take 90 minutes just for her $11.99 hot plates to boil water.

Arroyo said she is constantly broke from the expenses of living without cooking gas. The hot plates, which need to be replaced every few weeks, more than double her electric bills. She now pays around $250 a month for electricity, she said.

"I try to not cook on weekends so the bill won't go higher," Arroyo said, adding that she frequently has to purchase take-out in order to fill her three daughters’ stomachs.

After 10 months of this, Arroyo realized she needed to take action. One freezing evening in November, she organized a protest outside her apartment. She invited housing activists, tenants and news outlets. She told them all her story: In February 2015, she smelled something worrisome in her apartment and called the fire department. Almost immediately, ConEdison was on the scene and turned off her gas. But it was never turned back on.

In between her interviews in front of cameras, Arroyo spoke with tenants from all over the city that night who said they too are living without cooking gas.

“I realized I’m not alone,” Arroyo said.

Indeed, she’s not.

“We should all be mindful,” said Brandon Kielbasa, director of organizing at the housing rights group Cooper Square Committee. "You could be living in a building, happily, with no problems. Tomorrow your neighborhood is getting hot, and your building gets sold to a bad actor, and next thing you know you’re dealing with it.”

Laurel Parish, 50, has been without cooking gas for four months at her apartment in Inwood, Manhattan, and said she knows of two other buildings nearby in the same situation. “I don’t know if we are just too poor that we are on the bottom of a list somewhere,” she said.

She has no other option but to wait for her gas to return.

“I can’t afford to move,” Parish said, “We are a gentrifying neighborhood for sure.”

Kielbasa said most buildings with prolonged gas outages are located in neighborhoods that are becoming more expensive. Eager to cash-in on rising property values, landlords do speedy renovations, often hiring subcontractors who are either unqualified or pressured to complete the work in little time, which can result in issues that lead to gas shut-offs. For landlords trying to push out the tenants paying lower rents, a gas outage can be an opportunity, Kielbasa said.

“That extra strain of forcing tenants to pay more out of pocket and having the ambiguity of when this will be resolved can help get out tenants,” he said.

The issue prompted Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to write a letter to city officials and the CEO of ConEdison last year, demanding answers. “I’d like to know more broadly what additional enforcement, regulatory, or other action we can collectively pursue to reduce the number and length of these gas service suspensions,” Brewer wrote. “Manhattan’s residents—especially those with low or fixed incomes—must have cooking gas to feed themselves affordably.”

Leases for apartments in New York City guarantee cooking gas, and landlords should offer their tenants a discount on their monthly rent while this service is not provided. But that is rarely done, advocates say.

And even though the city imposes violations on landlords who deprive tenants of cooking gas, the fees are never enforced and so landlords are not motivated to fix the problems, said Joanna Laine, an attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, who represents dozens of tenants living without cooking gas throughout the city. “Landlords are held unaccountable,” Laine said.

Usually gas outages begin with a tenant calling the fire department after smelling gas. ConEdison is called to the scene to inspect. If the company decides to turn off a building’s gas, the city’s Department of Buildings gets involved. It is then up to the landlord to correct the building’s issues and keep the city updated. Once the landlord informs city officials that the necessary repairs have been done, the Department of Buildings inspects the site and if they deem conditions safe, the city issues the landlord an approval form. Once ConEdison receives this form from the landlord, the gas is restored.

Department of Buildings spokesman Alexander Schnell said tenants often complain that the city isn’t responding to their complaints. But, he said, the department is usually waiting on a request from the landlord to inspect the building. Once the Department of Buildings receives that request, inspectors from the city usually arrive at the building within five days, according to Schnell.

Living without cooking gas is not only inconvenient and expensive; residents say they worry about their safety.

Cora Robinson, 62, lives at 1777 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where tenants lost their gas in the summer. She had a stroke recently, and said her neurologist said it could have been caused by gas. Now the retiree walks around her apartment sniffing the air for signs of danger.

“I’m not sleeping. I’m afraid of the gas,” Robinson said. “It’s depressing.”

Sometimes she sees workers in her building, but when she asks them questions they refuse to answer her, she said. "There is no communication."

She lives on Social Security and can’t afford to leave her rent-stabilized apartment. But some of her neighbors couldn’t take it anymore. “I’ve seen six families move out in the last three months, and new people move in,” she said.

Eli Bleeman, the manager of Asden Properties, which owns the building where Robinson lives, said that it is tenants who are delaying the return of gas. He said residents need to allow the workers into their apartments to do the necessary work.

“One plumber is there all the time. As long as he has access, he can do the work,” Bleeman said. “But it’s a two-way street.”

Back in Brooklyn, Arroyo is still without gas. She's been to court many times, but said her landlord ignores the judge's deadlines to restore gas. The landlord's name is listed as 456-458 Bedford Corp. The managing agent, Cheskel Grunwald, did not respond to requests for comment. "The primary excuse he's been giving is essentially just that it's difficult to repair gas," said Laine, the lawyer who is representing Arroyo. Meanwhile, Arroyo says there are workers at the building all the time, renovating some apartments.

A woman just moved in next door to Arroyo, in one of the building’s “new apartments.” Arroyo and the woman sometimes chat in the hallway. One day, Arroyo asked how she was coping without gas. Her neighbor had no idea what she was talking about.