Gas Leak Scare at Overlook Manor

by JACK MELANSON & JEREMY LOFFREDO, News Editor & Staff Writer

Last Friday at 12:40 p.m., MC Jasper 911 sent an email in regards to a potentially dangerous gas leak across the street from Overlock Manor on W238th street.

“Today at approximately 1240pm there was a report of a gas odor on W.238 Street near Overlook Manor. There is ongoing construction in the streets on W.238 and Waldo Avenue. The New York Fire Department is currently onsite. As a precautionary measure W. 238 street is being closed to pedestrian traffic. Occupants of Overlook Manor should use the door located on Waldo Avenue near Dash Place if entering or exiting the building,” the initial email said.

Shortly before the email, Matt Mistretta, a senior living off campus spotted the smell.
“I noticed it around 12:30 and I was in my room. I knew construction was going on outside but there was a loud hissing sound that went on for about 5 minutes until I smelt gas in my room,” Mistretta said. “I went upstairs and told my roommates about it and minutes later we saw firefighters outside. We went outside to see what was going on and they told us to make sure everybody was out and to just wait until they resolved it. By about 12:45 it was safe to re-enter the apartment.”

Five minutes later, at 12:45 p.m., another MC Jasper 911 email was sent that called the incident ‘safe’.

“The Fire Department has deemed this incident as SAFE. It is now safe to use the main entrance to Overlook,” the email said.

David Campbell, assistant incident inspector for Con Edison was on scene.

“Jr Cruz is a private contractor for Con ED, they’re normally hired out for utility work, but the problem with sub-contracting out relatively dangerous gas work is you get people with less training than they would have if they worked for Con ED and you know stuff goes wrong,” Campbell said.

Old pipes were the cause of the gas leak, according to Campbell.

“They were in the middle improving the gas line on 238th street. They were doing some excavating and accidentally hit an old gas line from 1994. The old pipes are still attached to the new line in certain spots, which is pretty normal in New York because it’s too expensive and time consuming to take all of the old pipes out… but the old pipes are sometimes not in very good shape and crack easily,” he said.

Tom Lehr, 52nd Ladder Co- firefighter, explained the situation more thoroughly.
“JR Cruz and their guys were digging up the gas line with the excavator and they busted up an old gas main,” Lehr said.

He continued.

“That hissing sound you hear is the gas, it’s about 80 pounds of pressure pushing gas out of a 1 inch pipe,” Lehr said. “Normally before this sort of work is done, Con Ed comes and marks the pavement in order to let the workers know where and where not to dig, if this spot was in fact marked by con ed, then JR Cruzis in big trouble.”

Mark Salivine, is a JR CRUZ utility worker.

Salivine was asked why the gas is still pouring out of the pipe and why they can’t just turn it off.

“Only Con Ed can turn it off, so we’re waiting for con ed hopefully they don’t take much longer because the smell you’re smelling, and not good,” he said.

As previously stated, the gas smell lasted just ten minutes, but due to gas being turned off in the area, other issues arised.

Mr. Wu is the owner of Yokohama on W238th street.

According to Wu, Friday is Yokohoma’s busiest day.

“Friday is our busiest day so it’s really not good that our gas is turned off, it’s been more than 3 hours now,” he said.

Nothing stopped Yokohama from conducting business, though.

“We can still make sushi, but sushi only makes for a small amount of the business we do, we hope it comes on before dinner I already sent home a cook.”

Jasper Deli was well prepared for situations such as this one.

“The skillet that most of the sandwiches are made on is actually electric, we switched five years ago, and the fryers and the ovens are all on a backup generator, so thankfully we were prepared for this but for everyone else on this street trying to sell food on a beautiful friday afternoon, it’s no good and probably very frustrating,” Omar, a Jasper Deli Employee said.

Like others, Omar was concerned about the gas smell at his place of work.

“The smell inside was scary, and outside it smelt the exact same, everyone was saying ‘is it supposed to smell like that?’ And then finally the fire department came and it was obvious that it’s not supposed to smell like that,” he said. “I’m happy it’s no longer leaking but for people trying to run a restaurant, they only care about if they can make food or not.”

The gas was turned back on early Friday evening and students, workers on W238th and all others remained safe during the dangerous gas leak.