Since September 23, families living in 48 apartments at 1-04 Astoria Boulevard have not been able to cook after a gas leak forced Con Edison to shut off the main gas valve to the building.
NYCHA has provided hot plates to all affected residents, but they have asked for more help, especially with the holidays coming up.
“This neighborhood is very old,” said Vanessa Jones-Hall, a community leader and member of Community Board 1. “It’s still operating on its original connections.”
According to Jones-Hall, contractors addressing the situation have to go into each apartment and “bleed out” the gas line to make sure there are no air pockets, a process meant to prevent a possible explosion.
“Although we would love for this to be quicker,” she said, “we look at safety first.”
Since March, Jones-Hall has been working with Queens Together, a nonprofit organization that started during the pandemic to help local restaurants aid residents facing food insecurity, to hand out toiletries and other supplies to the community.
They collaborated again to find sponsors who could donate materials to Astoria Houses families affected by the outage. They eventually received help from Vinson Valega, founder of Consilience Productions, who donated the Crock-Pots, as well as the Long Island City steakhouse M. Wells, which provided warm meals.
“We have been fortunate for a lot of people to come through,” Jones-Hall said.
On Sunday, they all joined local elected officials to help distribute the Crock-Pots and meals at Astoria Houses.
Jonathan Forgash, co-founder and executive director of Queens Together, called the situation “mind-boggling,” and said he hopes NYCHA fixes the gas lines soon.
“Everyone needs to be able to cook for their families,” he said. “There’s nothing more important than taking care of your own.”
Among the elected officials who attended were Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Councilman Brad Lander, Queens borough president-elect Donovan Richards and Councilman Costa Constantinides.
“The infrastructure, that investment that is needed in NYCHA developments around Queens, has been problematic for a very long time,” Richards said. “I know it’s going to be hard and tough, but we’re going to get through this together.”
Constantinides called for putting electric stoves in every NYCHA apartment, which he argued would be better for the environment and air quality.
“We wouldn’t have to worry about rotting gas lines,” he said. “It’s time for us to actually think about the future instead of constantly clinging to the past.”
Claudia Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Residents Association, said no child should go to bed without food in their stomachs. She said they have gone door to door to make sure families get what they need.
“There are people who have pride and won’t come out to get it, but they’re in need,” she said.
Coger added that she plans to provide roasted turkeys to families on Thanksgiving should the gas lines still be out.
“We’ll make sure that happens,” she said.