Southern Brooklyn

Ending moratorium, National Grid still faces outcry in Brooklyn

December 2, 2019 Paula Katinas

National Grid’s announcement that it would do an about-face and end its moratorium on gas service to new customers didn’t impress two outspoken Brooklyn lawmakers who said the company is still likely to face backlash.

While Assemblymember William Colton and Councilmember Mark Treyger also said they were relieved when they learned that National Grid had decided to provide gas service to new customers and to reinstate service which had been turned off, they are continuing to urge the governor to seek out other suppliers.

Colton, a Democrat representing Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights, credited Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had threatened to strip National Grid of its monopoly, with getting the company to end its moratorium.

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“I am glad that Gov. Cuomo heard the cries of helpless customers and stepped up to their aid. It was a long fight but, together, we were able to overpower the greed of National Grid,” Colton said.

National Grid announced on Nov. 25 that it had reached an agreement with New York State and would resume gas hookups to customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The announcement came two weeks after Cuomo threatened to revoke National Grid’s certificate to operate in the downstate region.

The gas company imposed the moratorium in May, after the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied an application to construct the Williams Pipeline, a $1 billion gas line between New Jersey and New York that National Grid officials said would increase the company’s gas supply by 14 percent.

Without the pipeline, National Grid contended, the company would be unable to acquire new customers or resume service to households and businesses whose service had been turned off due to construction projects or for other reasons.

“We understand the frustrations of everyone who experienced a delay in service during this period and regret that we did not provide more notice or explanation to our customers about the moratorium,” National Grid Interim President Badar Khan said in a statement on Nov. 25.

Treyger was unmoved by the company’s change of heart.

“The message is clear. New Yorkers will not stand for corporate greed tactics to limit basic needs like heat and hot water we entrust our public utility companies to provide,” said Treyger, a Democrat whose district includes Coney Island, Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst.

Treyger and Colton were among the lawmakers who raised the loudest objections to National Grid’s moratorium. The pols said that the company’s lack of action left thousands of customers stranded.

In August, Colton took National Grid to task during a press conference with outraged customers held in front of his Kings Highway district office.

“Back in August at my press conference, I had exposed National Grid’s moratorium to thousands of helpless customers. National Grid kept their customers hostage, just to push the unnecessary Williams pipeline project,” Colton said.

Julie Levine, a Brooklyn homeowner, spoke at the presser and described how she had purchased a home and spent months renovating it only to learn that National Grid wouldn’t turn her gas on. “We bought a house in Park Slope. We spent our life savings renovating it. I called the gas company and was told they will not be providing me with gas,” she said at the time, adding that she had played by the rules and had the gas turned off during the renovations because that is what she was required to do.

Ending the moratorium will not end the controversy, Treyger predicted.

“I urge the governor and the New York Public Service Commission to review alternative gas supply options to examine ways to break up the public utility monopoly,” he said.

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  1. I lived in two Brooklyn apartments between 1986 and 2014 and endured endless problems with National Grid; a gas service diversion that the utility was unwilling (not to be confused with unable) to address, charges for gas service not provided, inappropriately levied fines. When I complained, the company took the same approach it did with the pipeline controversy: said ‘too bad.’

    For the past five years, I have used counter-top electrical appliances instead of the gas stove that came with my new apartment, simply to avoid having to deal with National Grid. While the utility certainly misplayed its hand here and got a spanking from the governor, the problems at National Grid are bigger than this one policy fight.