Long Islanders whose homes are to be raised after being ravaged by superstorm Sandy face at least $1,400 in unexpected costs when it comes time to disconnect and reconnect their gas lines.
"When I saw it, I nearly flipped," said Henry Hastava of Island Park, whose home is scheduled to be raised Sept. 15.
National Grid, which had waived the fees for years in the aftermath of Sandy, in June began charging $700 to disconnect gas service to homes before they can be raised. The cost to reconnect can be another $700 or more, depending on how much extra gas line must be added.
National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said the company was within its rights to reinstitute the fees. "In our tariff National Grid is clearly authorized to charge customers for gas-service-line alterations," she said in a statement this week. "This charge was suspended after Sandy on our own initiative for 2½ years to assist customers. After waiving the charge for several years post-Sandy, it was decided that it was time to reinstate the tariff charge."
Island Park residents Nedra and Richard Cadiz said they recently learned of the fee when they began making arrangements to raise their home. Nedra Cadiz said the cost is more than her family can bear.
"This is unjust and unfair," she said. "If those who have already completed the process did not have to pay, then no one should have to pay." She said the "outrageous" $1,400 charge is "taking advantage of the situation."
Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said at least hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of homeowners face the same costs.
"It's a very big problem," Kaminsky said Thursday. Last week he sent a letter to National Grid president Ken Daly, asking him to "revisit your decision to charge Sandy victims this unnecessary fee."
"This will cause additional financial strain on Sandy victims who have already suffered greatly and who are still struggling to rebuild their homes and cope with rising debt," he wrote.
Ladd said National Grid would waive the fee under certain circumstances. For instance, customers who were the owner or lessee of the home when the storm hit and have "not been living in the structure" since the storm would not have to pay the fee. The fee also would be waived if there is no intent to use gas in the future" in the home.
Long Beach contractor Gregg Weisenberg, of Carstan Construction, said the vast majority of the thousands of customers facing the fee would not meet the criteria for the waiver.
"It's a very small percentage," he said, noting most had homes repaired and moved back in after the storm. Weisenberg said reinstating the fee now will affect most of those homeowners who have been waiting for NY Rising funds to do the work. He had his damaged home raised in April, missing the fee by two months.
"There's already a lot of stress and lot of waiting from a lack of funding," he said. "When you throw the fee on top of what everybody's going through, it's a very stressful experience."Kaminsky said he believed the fee would not be reimburseable through the NY Rising grants.
PSEG doesn't charge disconnect or reconnect fees, PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said. The utility does charge for a temporary service hookup for construction, but it has been waived for Sandy victims and there's no intention to reinstate it, Weir said.