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Merrick family overcomes a delay to get gas heat

Eamonn and Kara Guilfoyle with their son, Fintan,

Eamonn and Kara Guilfoyle with their son, Fintan, after the heat was turned on at their Merrick home. Credit: Katie Gavin

Please help us.

That's how the email from Kara Guilfoyle began: Her house was cold.

She sent it Nov. 19, a day after the temperature had fallen — it registered 22 degrees the night before at Islip MacArthur Airport — and would reach only 35 that afternoon.

"In August we started the conversion from oil [heat] to gas in our new home," Guilfoyle wrote. She and her husband, Eamonn, had paid National Grid the initial $4,000 — half of the conversion fee — and hired a plumber who then filed the necessary paperwork. They were told "it should not take more than four weeks before National Grid shows up to dig up the street and run the piping to our house," she told us.

But "we are still waiting," she wrote. "We have an infant at home and no heat. I called National Grid only to be told they are backlogged with paper. Please, can you help us get heat!"

It wasn't simply the onset of cold weather that prompted her plea. The night before, the couple had heard another painful forecast: eight more weeks before the job would be done. Which meant January.

Cut to the chase: The work was completed and the Guilfoyles have heat in their Merrick home. The plumber provided portable plug-in heaters to keep the chill from settling in until the job was finished.

National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd told us a wait of several weeks is typical: Installation requires digging open a street. That requires municipal approval, which means requests for permits must be filed and processed. National Grid tells homeowners not to jettison their old oil furnaces until the new system is in place, Ladd said.

But the Guilfoyles didn't fit neatly into that scenario. Shortly after they moved in — the house had been vacant more than five years and needed substantial repairs — the boiler died, Kara Guilfoyle said, so the couple had to choose whether to purchase a new one or convert to natural gas. When they opted for the latter, they told National Grid that the old heating system was kaput.

"We were never notified this could happen," she said of the longer delay.

We told National Grid of the family's plight and, two days later, a worker arrived to mark up the sidewalk and street. The next day, a Saturday, a National Grid crew was on site by 7 a.m., Kara Guilfoyle said, dug up the street and laid a gas line to the home. That set the stage for the plumber to complete his work and for the Town of Hempstead to inspect the installation.

By the middle of the first week of December, the heat was on.


When the new section of bike path along Ocean Parkway was completed in early summer, a fence was installed at the end that kept bikes out of Tobay Beach. Bicyclists were not amused.

A turnstile-type gate can accommodate humans but not their bikes.

"It seems like a very bad decision by the folks in Oyster Bay," Margaret Jackson of Northport said when she told us of the obstacle.

The bike-pedestrian path, which the state labels a "coastal greenway," runs along the northern side of the parkway. The section completed in the summer is a 3.6-mile extension of a path that starts at Cedar Creek Park in Wantagh.

The gate hinders cyclists who, on reaching the end of the path, had planned to take bikes into the parking fields to reach the tunnels that lead to ocean beaches. Cyclists who park their vehicles at Tobay hoping to enter the path for a bike ride up to Cedar Creek — a 14-plus mile ride — are similarly stymied.

The fence was installed as "a public health and safety measure," Oyster Bay Town spokesman Brian Devine said. Bikes are not permitted at the beach "at all," he said, citing "near accidents." Bike racks are provided near the turnstile entrance.

"I understand the disappointment of the bicyclists, but they have to appreciate the bigger picture" as it pertains to safety, he said.

State plans call for the path to continue east from Tobay to Captree State Park. Wouldn't that necessitate removal of the fence?

No, Devine said, because the path will bypass the park on a route closer to the parkway. So the fence is due to remain.

"This will be a glorious stretch when it's finished," Jackson said. She'll have to wait: Completion is scheduled for 2021, according to the state Department of Transportation website.

Not too swift

An odd couple of signs on northbound State Route 135 had given motorists mixed signals for quite a while, Bob Puttre of North Baldwin told us. He sent us a photo of the signs, north of Exit 8, and wrote: "I suspect the right sign should read 'Minimum Speed 40'." Minimum speed limit or not, the 40 mph sign is gone; it was removed early in December, shortly after we notified the state Department of Transportation.


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