A Bay Ridge landlord is saying a new city law forcing property owners to comply with strict new gas safety standards is the catalyst behind him not providing cooking gas for his 60-unit building for the past few months.
City Council Member Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst) and Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus (D-Coney Island, Bay Ridge, Brighton Beach) rallied in front of the building in question – 303 99th Street – on Thanksgiving Day with tenant activists and tenants to decry the landlord Alan Polen and his property company, Revlyn Management, for not providing cooking gas to tenants since late September.
Among the charges leveled at Polen at the rally were he was not using a licensed plumber and has been dragging his feet on fixing the cooking gas problem without providing any alternative to tenants on cooking such as supplying hot plates or to give them a break on the rent until the problem is fixed.
“We’re today calling out Alan Polen and Revlyn Management, um, for not doing the right thing here, uh, and not hiring licensed plumbers who know what they’re doing. There’s plenty of licensed union plumbers out there who know what they’re doing, who could probably get this fixed and in about a half an hour,” said Brannan.
“But for whatever reason, Alan Polen and Revlyn Management can’t figure that out. They’re hiring a bunch of clowns who can’t get this done. And now today it’s Thanksgiving and we have no cooking gas. So because this guy’s playing hot potato, today everyone’s going to have cold potatoes for Thanksgiving and we’re sick of it. We’re tired of it,” he added.
Frontus said she was shocked and outraged to find out there were some 60 households in the building without electrical gas since September.
“How can this happen right under our noses here in Bay Ridge? So I’m here today with all of the families who are here, who are either standing here listening through their windows, that Assemblywoman Frontus is here, standing in solidarity with you because you do not deserve this. You deserve to live in a safe environment,” she said.
Polen responded that the problem started when he brought in a licensed plumber from Service Tech Mechanical and Plumbing, Inc to comply with Local Law 152 (LL152) of 2016, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2021.
The law mandates gas piping systems in most buildings must be inspected by a Licensed Master Plumber (LMP) at least once every four years and property owners who don’t comply to file for an Inspection Certification before December 31, 2020 in Community Districts 1, 3 and 10 (which includes Bay Ridge and the building in question) in all boroughs could face a fine of $10,000.
The city law was prompted by a major gas explosion in 2015 in Manhattan, and applies to all owners of buildings, except one- or two-family homes known as R3 occupancy groups. It includes places of worship or religious institutions and requires the inspection of exposed gas piping, not including gas piping above a drop ceiling or behind an access door.
Polen said due to the COVID pandemic getting Department of Buildings (DOB) permits to do work has been very difficult so the plumbing company came to do initial work without a permit, which in hindsight he acknowledges was a mistake. And on that day, Sept. 29, an anonymous person called DOB inspectors, who came in and issued a stop-work order.
Polen said after paying a $6,000 fine, he again received a permit, but work was halted on Nov. 20 because the job at hand includes extensive piping, which calls for a separate permit, which due to the pandemic is hard to get.
“As soon as we get the permit, he [the Plumber] we will come in next day and do the work,” he said.
Polen said he didn’t offer any rent reductions, but did set up an account at the Bay Ridge PC Richards for any of the tenants to go to the store and with proof of address will get a free hot plate to cook on. He said he put up a notice to this effect near the mailboxes in the building vestibule.
A KCP check of all the notices in the vestibule did not reveal such a notice and Polen said somebody must have torn it down and that several tenants went to the store and got the hot plate.
Regardless of this specific building, Polen warned that as this new local law goes into effect many other property owners in Bay Ridge and beyond – large and small – will be caught in a similar bind with mandated inspections and difficulty in obtaining permits.
“This is just the beginning. You haven’t seen anything yet,” Polen said.