Diane Gerber grew up just off the corner of West 234th Street and Tibbett Avenue. In fact, she still lives in her childhood home, where she has done everything from taking her first steps to constructing brickwork on her front porch.
But for the last month, living at home hasn’t been quite so pleasant for Gerber.
On Aug. 13, a Con Edison electrical line burned out beneath her home, triggering a gas leak that forced her and 20 of her neighbors to be evacuated while the utilities company made repairs.
The repair itself lasted just hours, but the repercussions of that burned line has been a problem for Gerber and her immediate neighbors for weeks, and now more than a month. And the only reason anyone knew there were electrical problems and a gas leak was because Gerber’s television went out.
“I lost partial electric power, I was the only one,” she said. “When they opened up the street, the gas came out with such a force that it knocked the ConEd worker back.”
After the leak was fixed, residents were allowed back in their homes. But Gerber still didn’t have electricity, so ConEd workers hooked her up to a temporary power line to at least get the juice flowing through her house again.
But then that was it.
For the next month, Gerber said, no one from ConEd came to her house. When she would call, Gerber claims she faced constant excuses about why the work had yet to be completed.
“I keep calling ConEd, and every time I speak to them, they tell me something else that needs to be done,” Gerber said. “There has to be inside work done in my meter room. It’s going to cost me $2,000, and they won’t pay for it.”
ConEd doesn’t pay for any work done inside a customer’s home, according to Gerber, a claim she said doesn’t make sense, since she didn’t cause the leak — or her power outage.
But ConEd finally did send workers to Gerber’s house not long after the utility was contacted by The Riverdale Press. Yet, ConEd still wouldn’t comment on the exact cause of the outage, or whether Gerber was still on the hook for the work done in her house.
Gas leaks have been an ongoing problem, especially around Tibbett Avenue. Last month, a home on West 234th Street between Corlear and Tibbett avenues experienced a small explosion, but no one was hurt.
Fire officials at the time suspected a gas leak, but determined the blast was not suspicious.
While there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of small gas leaks in the city already, if they become violent, they can be deadly. A 2014 study by Duke, Stanford and Boston universities, found that natural gas pipeline explosions claim 17 lives each year across the country, and cause more than $133 million in damage.
Luckily, there was no explosion involving Gerber’s leak, but the lingering effects — complete with construction barriers and temporary power lines in front of their homes — has been more than they feel they should have to handle.
“They said they were going to treat it as an emergency,” Gerber said. “But they haven’t really done anything.”