More than 800 residents of the near-century old Amalgamated Houses in Van Cortlandt Village are breathing a sigh of relief, as they will avert a planned gas service shutoff that would have taken place this July.
Amalgamated’s general manager Charles Zsebedics told the Bronx Times that a meeting between Amalgamated’s board of directors, the state’s Homes and Community Renewal, the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) and Con Edison determined that the gas service did not have to be shut off to any of the affected buildings unless a future emergency gas condition arises.
Last December, Amalgamated’s contracted plumbing company assessed that “major work” needed to be done to repair the aging gas piping systems in the cooperatives by June 30 of this year, which carries a $6,500-$7,500 price tag per apartment.
Local Law 152 requires the periodic inspection of gas piping systems of all buildings at least once every four years.
According to DOB, property owners and the contracted plumber began submitting these inspection report certifications of the different buildings in late December and in early 2023 — however, DOB said they never ordered Con Edison to turn off gas service that would have affected roughly 827 residents.
State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz — whose mother and brother were once residents of the complex — told the Bronx Times that he called a meeting between the organizations and the board to clear up confusion on if the gas shutdown needed to happen in compliance with Local Law 152.
“By us getting everybody in the same room at the same time, meaning everyone is talking to everyone, it was agreed that there was nothing imminent that would result in Amalgamated losing gas by July,” said Dinowitz. “The main thing is that we stopped a very bad and, apparently, unnecessary, thing from happening to the residents of about 800 of the apartments in the Amalgamated.”
DOB officials told the Bronx Times that while the plumbing system in multiple buildings on Amalgamated’s campus are in need of repair, there were no conditions identified by the contracted plumbing company that posed an immediate life safety threat to the public.
The cost of the repairs — in line with the June 30 deadline — were outside Amalgamated’s capital funds, Zsebedics told tenants in a letter circulated on Feb. 22.
Zsebedics said that Con Edison’s goal is getting buildings relying on natural gas — like Amalgamated Housing Corporation — into the process of covering to electric. He hopes that funds from mortgage refinancing could usher in electrification of the building next year.
New York made climate history last week, becoming the first state in the nation to pass a law banning natural gas in most new buildings.
“Although we have a reprieve on the gas shutdown, the coop must continue showing a reasonable good-faith effort to the DOB and Con Ed in our planning for our cooking gas system repairs or replacing the system entirely by adopting alternative clean energy for our shareholders’ cooking means as soon as funding from a mortgage refinance can take place, hopefully within the next year,” said Zsebedics.
Amalgamated Houses faces $150M in capital needs, new co-op board seeks relief from the state
The Amalgamated Houses are 11 apartment houses, scattered over six blocks just south of Van Cortlandt Park. The buildings came to be when then-Gov. Alfred E. Smith signed a 1926 Housing Law offering a 20-year tax exemption and low-cost building loans to developers who kept profits below 6%.
Many of the tenants, Amalgamated’s board members said, are moderate-to-low income and seniors. A bulk of the buildings in the portfolio were constructed before 1955.
The board noted that the building’s transition to electric stoves in apartments affected by the now-quelled gas shutdown would be difficult because electric stoves would overwhelm the electrical capacity of the building’s near-century old apartments.
According to a study done by Amalgamated Housing, the cost of electrical upgrades to support use of an electric stove in the co-op would be $3,000 per apartment.
A recently formed board of cooperators, known as Amalgamated Cooperators United (ACU), cite a longstanding financial crisis and looming default on its insurance coverage if it fails to make a $400,000 down payment on June 1. Amalgamated’s monthly operating reserves in a given month are less than $200,000, according to Robert Smith, a member of the co-op’s recently formed board.
During a Feb. 15 board of directors meeting, the board painted a financial picture that included cash and reserve funds totaling just $176,076. Amalgamated also owes roughly $1.5 million in payments to past vendors.