Many living at the Acropolis Gardens cooperative apartments in Astoria have been without gas and hot water for eight weeks.
At a rally Monday, in front of the buildings on 33rd Street and Ditmars Boulevard, elected officials sought to put pressure on all parties involved — including Con Edison, which shut off gas in eight of the 16 buildings on April 29, and the management company, which Con Edison and the city Department of Buildings say had illegal pipework resulting in the shut-off — to fix the situation.
As of Monday, only two of the eight affected buildings had gas and hot water restored.
“Enough is enough. It’s time to get the work done,” said City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), who said he’s been speaking to Con Edison and the DOB, which he noted has a list of violations for the Acropolis buildings on its website. He stressed that work should be done as soon as possible while the different parties see who is responsible.
“Do the work first. Stop pointing fingers,” he said.
At a protest on Sunday morning, management again placed blame on Con Edison, which has said throughout the ordeal that responsibility for repairing the situation and filing the proper paperwork with the DOB lies with the building owners.
On Monday, state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) noted how community members had no electricity for 10 days several years ago and “the whole community fell apart.”
“These people have been almost two months,” Gianaris said. “Enough is enough.”
Public Advocate Letitia James called it all a “bureaucratic nightmare for the residents.”
Before the rally, resident Azeddine Makhloufi said many are now even more affected since Ramadan began.
“We use the kitchen a lot in this month,” he said, adding not having gas has made observing the holiday difficult. “They tell me they were going to fix it next week, next week, for a month. It’s unprofessional.”
Several at the rally also expressed frustration over how management operates, claiming that it’s typically difficult to get in touch and have problems fixed.
One resident, who only went by Luke, said that management has done “absolutely nothing” in terms of being responsive to residents on maintenance issues. He said that he’s told that since he owns his unit, he is responsible for things he believes are the building’s responsibility, such as a broken front door.
In a cooperative, multiple shareholders typically own the buildings, with one corporation managing it.
“They point a finger and they never come by,” Luke said, adding they had to threaten to sue to have workers come by before he had to leave for the night.
Another resident, Karla, said her mother has lived in the building for more than 30 years and experiences the same issues.
“You have to call them back two or three times to get an answer first of all,” another woman, Emma, added.
Another man, who chose not to be named, compared the way the building manages the property to how he’s seen NYCHA property handled, something he stressed he’s familiar with.
“It’s ridiculous we have the problems that we do,” the man said. “It’s poor management that’s holding this place backwards.”
When asked about these residents’ claims, a spokesman for Metropolitan Pacific Properties said, “I would like to see the proof. We have a clear system in place.”
The rally, in which management representatives were also present, sparked audible anger in some residents.
When a lawyer for the management company urged people to call Con Ed, the “only entity with the power to turn the gas back on,” he described, one man became upset.
“With respect, there’s only one entity here that’s actually capable of replacing broken equipment and that’s the people who own this property,” the resident, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said. “The people who have the power to replace the crappy equipment that’s in that basement, where the hell are they? Where are they? … I can’t even get them on the phone.”
Others began asking how to get in touch with a co-op board or how to attend meetings while stressing that they aren’t given that information, as they should as cooperative shareholders.
Nick Alexander, a five-year resident, stressed to the lawyers that he has never voted for a board member nor been informed of any meetings. He repeatedly asked, “When do meetings occur?”
The lawyer told Alexander to put a request in writing to make a demand.
After the rally, James said that she has heard a number of complaints about management and will defer to the area’s elected officials to investigate any evidence of wrongdoing.
“Most of the complaints that I’ve heard this morning have to do with the lack of utilities,” James said. “So, all of the alleged illegality with respect to management is nothing right now. There’s no concrete evidence. There’s just a lot of anecdotes.”
Constantinides said that if residents bring the concerns to his office, he would be “happy to look into them.”
Owner Steve Osman, of Metropolitan Pacific Properties, said they plan to file a lawsuit against Con Edison, seeking at least $2,000 per resident.
When asked about resident complaints against management’s practices, he said, “You always have the 10 percent.” He said most people aren’t upset.
When asked what the management company should have done differently, Osman again called out Con Edison, stressing that they should have been given time to show the company their permits.
James’ office is still trying to organize a meeting with all responsible parties.