Two gas stations near Lehman High School have finally agreed to lower their infamous high prices, and locals are cheering.
Residents say that the Citgo stations, which sit on either side of the Hutchinson River Parkway, have had exorbitant prices for years, taking advantage of highway drivers that get caught with an empty tank and have no other options to fill up.
The gasoline prices of the two stations have been as much as a dollar more than the average price at nearby stations. Recently, prices hovered around $4 per gallon for regular.
After many months fielding complaints and working on this issue, Councilman Jimmy Vacca alerted the Parks Department, which leases the station, to issue a warning letter reminding the franchise owner that he is required to set prices that are in line with local stations.
In her letter dated August 3, NYC Parks Department project revenue commissioner Elizabeth Smith told owner David Gilbride, of Supervalue, Inc., “After checking the prices of gasoline at twelve gas stations within a five mile radius of the Hudson River Parkway, a Parks inspector noted that the average price for all stations observed per grade are $2.91/$3.06/$3.16 per gallon… Citgo on the Hutchinson River Parkway charges $.96/$.86/$.75 higher.”
“Your prices need to be lowered appreciably,” the letter orders.
Parks Department project manager Charlotte Hall explained over the phone that the owner “is operating under a concession agreement with Parks,” and therefore must legally follow the conditions set forth in the letter.
Since then, the station has indeed lowered its prices to $3.19 for regular, $3.29 for super, and $3.39 for premium unleaded gasoline.
Vacca considered it a happy victory. “For too long,” he said, “motorists have been driving into these stations with an empty tank, and driving out with an empty wallet. Gouging customers is never acceptable, but the fact that this company has been charging these excessive prices on city-owned land is even more outrageous. The city had a responsibility to end this practice once and for all.”
Mary Jane Musano, of the Waterbury LaSalle Community Association, was also delighted. “That really was a way for them to catch people not from the community, who were going over the Whitestone Bridge and got stuck,” she said. “Kind of a low thing for them to do. Most of the people in the community didn’t use the station because of the prices. I know people had noticed the prices and commented that it wasn’t right. And you don’t want to see anyone taken advantage of.”
She also chose to see it as a collective effort that took the observance of residents, drivers, elected officials and the city. “That’s what happens when everyone comes together,” she said, “you get good results.”