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Businesses express relief at end of moratorium on natural gas hookups

The owner of the former Source Mall in

The owner of the former Source Mall in Westbury said he had delayed opening a new food court because cooking equipment could not be hooked up to natural gas. Credit: Howard Schnapp

“We are very excited, it’s full steam ahead,” said David Ackerman, marketing director for Samanea, the Singapore company that’s trying to reopen the former Source Mall in Westbury. “We are thrilled that the moratorium is lifted, and some reason has returned to the process” of construction on the Island.

The mall is among more than 200 businesses in Nassau and Suffolk counties that have been unable to secure natural gas service since May when National Grid imposed the moratorium. The British utility acted after New York State regulators blocked construction of a pipeline extension under New York Harbor on environmental grounds, citing potential damage to water quality and marine life.

Reacting to complaints from companies and homeowners, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently brought National Grid to the negotiating table after threatening to yank its license to operate downstate. On Monday, the sides announced the moratorium would end, alternate gas supplies would meet the region’s needs for two years while a long-term supply is identified, and the utility would pay $36 million in penalties.

The mall owner put off the opening of a new food court until mid-2020 because there was no natural gas for stoves, ovens and other cooking equipment. With gas again available, Ackerman said Tuesday that two restaurants — Hook & Reel and K-Pot — will apply for the necessary building permits to begin construction.

Engel Burman, developer of The Bristal Assisted Living chain and other housing, will move forward with 1,000 units in about 10 projects, from Long Beach to Smithtown, executives said. They also said they will build housing in Florida.

“This was very important to us because it showed that the governor has a commitment to keep us operating,” said Engel Burman president Jan Burman, referring to Cuomo putting an end to the gas moratorium.

Cuomo “bought us two years, which gives the utility company and the state time to figure out next steps,” Burman said. “We now have a way forward to finish plans and get things in the ground.”

Last month, Burman, one of Long Island’s largest developers, shocked some in the business community when he said the moratorium was “the final straw” and that his future projects would be in Florida, not the metropolitan area.

Asked about Florida on Tuesday, Burman said he will build 600 to 700 apartments in the Sunshine State but “we do have a pipeline” [of planned projects] in New Jersey, the five boroughs and on Long Island that we intend to pursue.”

In announcing the agreement with Cuomo, Badar Khan, interim president of National Grid U.S., said, “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.”

Company spokeswoman Karen Young confirmed Tuesday that 4,000 requests for new and expanded gas service on Long Island and in Queens and Brooklyn were denied due to the moratorium, which went into effect on May 15. More than 200 of the requests were from Island businesses, she said.

The Long Island Builders Institute, which represents housing developers, and the Long Island Association business group applauded the moratorium’s end. Both have endorsed the $1 billion pipeline extension proposed by the Williams Companies Inc. of Oklahoma.

“It is terrific news for the Long Island economy,” said LIA president Kevin Law. We “encourage all stakeholders to plan for a longer-term solution to meet the region’s natural gas needs.”

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