Friday, July 3, 2015

Progress and frustration at B&H Dairy

[B&H in happier days by Ken Goldstein via Facebook]

B&H Dairy has remained shuttered since the deadly Second Avenue gas explosion on March 26.

The 73-year-old lunch counter at 127 Second Ave. between East Seventh Street and St. Mark's Place was close to reopening several times this spring, only to encounter an unexpected setback, such as in early May when the FDNY said that B&H needed a new fire suppression system. (Safety requirements from the city have become stricter since March 26.)

This upgrade, expected to cost $28,000, has kept the small restaurant from opening these past two months. The upgrade is also looking like the major factor that could permanently close B&H.

For starters, owners Fawzy Abdelwahed and Ola Smigielsk needed approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (the building is in the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District) to install the new fire suppression system. The LPC approval finally came through last week. And as of Wednesday, the DOB had issued the necessary permit for the job. Work starts on Monday. (The contractor needed to be first approved by the FDNY.)

Now it looks like another few weeks before B&H can possibly reopen. "Another few weeks" is something that Abdelwahed has heard all too often in recent months. Meanwhile, other nearby restaurants were able to reopen fairly quickly after the explosion.

We spoke with Abdelwahed on the phone this week. He was understandably frustrated.

"I have bills to pay. What am I going to do? Where am I going to get assistance from? I just need to open the restaurant — simple," said Abdelwahed, who estimates that his monthly costs are $30,000, which includes rent, taxes and labor costs. (B&H successfully raised $26,000 in a crowdfunding campaign back in April.)

How about the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which promised financial assistance to residents and businesses impacted by the Second Avenue explosion?

"They promised to give people money who have been affected by the explosion, but this has never happened," he said. "I've never heard from them."

However, he expressed his gratitude to Bernadette Nation from the Small Business Services agency (a mayoral agency), who has lately been advocating on B&H's behalf along with Community Board 3 officials. And there are the B&H faithful. "We have very big support from our customers," he said. "Since being closed the only people who care about us are our customers."

While there is progress to report, B&H still has a labyrinth of red tape to navigate before reopening. For example, after the contractor finishes the work, the FDNY must approve the new system, then ConEd has to approve the building's new gas lines (already installed). Once B&H gets final approval by all involved parties, the Department of Health steps in for an inspection before the restaurant is permitted to serve food again. (B&H had an A rating before.)

And if there is another setback, what will that do to B&H's chances of reopening?

“As each day goes by, I cannot pay the rent if we are closed. Two more weeks and I cannot afford it anymore," he said. "Two more weeks and I’m done. That’s it."

For his part, Abdelwahed just wants to get back to work.

“I miss the whole operation. I miss my customers. I miss seeing them. They are my friends — I know them by name. I miss serving people every day. I miss my job every day," he said, "I get up every day and I don’t know what to do. It is a very bad feeling."

[Photo of Fawzy and Ola from May 9 by Derek Berg]


For further reading:
Save the B&H (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)

NYI featured B&H last night on its "NY1 For You" segment.


Anonymous said...

I'm over with any expectations -- except media side shows -- with this mayor.

Anonymous said...

Typical governmental bureaucratic stupidity, 1984 style.
Get with anarchy, and oppose the criminal entity at City Hall.

"The world's population is gradually dividing into two types--Anarchists and criminals."

Benjamin R. Tucker


Anonymous said...

Sorry Anon 7:43. After a great tragedy civic entities begin to put into place regulations that should have been in place earlier. Yes, sadly, things like this take time, and the delay endangers small businesses who can ill afford to be closed week after week. What would you rather? Unsafe gas or electric connections? Lack of appropriate fire prevention or fire suppression equipment? Which of the needed upgrades would you like to see withdrawn? Your fake anarchy rant is just that, a rant that doesn't serve people's needs just your need to show how anti everything you are--even if it is mindless and doesn't stand up to reality.

Anonymous said...

If Con Edison has not yet approved the gas lines (it is not clear if DOB has already approved the new gas lines) then there is no way that B&H could be up and running within 2 weeks.

It will take two weeks just to get the first Con Ed visit - and even if they approve it - it will take another 10 days to get the Con Ed turn on team to come in and install the meter.

Short of an Act of Congress - this is at least another month before they have gas.

Now I am all for safety - but making people wait for weeks between final inspection and meter installation and turn has nothing to do with safety.

And the local Councilmember's office will tell you that this is an issue of safety - so don't look for help there.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:35 am. It is not just Con Edison, as they also needed to wait until they got LPC approval even though all work is interior (thank you EV preservationists) and in addition the entire building had to be gas repiped. And failed its first City inspection partly because they combined the restaurant work and the residential work. They are obviously trying to get gas back on asap but yes, this is the current rules and system which actually Bloomberg streamlined. Actually this is quite fast --- ask any new restaurant which legally does a complete renovation and wants to get their gas turned on to start cooking. remember Via Della Pace on 7th street actually served cold food only for weeks until it got gas turned on.

Anonymous said...

You know, if there was ever one place where anarchism sustained itself, maybe people would take it seriously.

Ena Paul Kostabi said...

I spike to the construction crew yesterday they said,"2, more weeks maybe less"

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:23. The point is that this process takes way too long. This isnt about safety. Its about speeding up a process. This is where JVNY and his crew need to focus energy. These delay kill small businesses. Do you work for ConEd or the city? You probably do and sadly you dont give a shit. Peoples needs? How about actually doing some work? How about expediting these appts? The endless red tape and bureaucracy kills businesses. Why does it take months to get this done? Delay after delay.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:23, tragedies such as the one on Second Avenue are not prevented by more mindless regulations, but by applying the rule of (common) law, which government monopolies (government + monopoly = crookopoly) do poorly in this day and age. You probably think gun control works too. It worked well for the Nazis after they disarmed the Jews.

More regulations just create fake jobs for government crookeaucrats and drive small businesses under and put people out of work.


blue glass said...

bloomburg helped eatily open in what seemed to be almost over night.

why can't diblasio help b&h reopen?

this is going to take more than empty public statements from our elected officials.

get moving before it's too late.

Anonymous said...

de Blasio's wife Chirlane McCray is in charge of Mayor's office that collected donations for EV victims but technically B&H is not victim of EV explosion that's why cannot collect on insurance. Most restaurants/bars would be closed in this area if they were all inspected esp. the old-timers.


This whole process needs to move faster. Nobody is personally accountable. Start posting the names of people they're speaking to and hold them personally accountable. It's the only way to get people to do shit and prevent them from hiding behind the company name. What's been allowed to happen to this family, their business, and the neighborhood is a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

ANON 09:16 this is 08:35

Trust me I am well aware of the fact that they had to go to LPC - but can you or anyone else tell me what a fire suppression system installed over the stoves has to do with Landmarks? It is not on the exterior...

Anyone - I eagerly await a logical response.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:39 and Bill 9:49. The last refuge of a scoundrel is always ad hominen attacks. If someone disagrees with you--then they must work for "the man"--in this case--the city. I don't thank you. And of course, when in doubt, throw in the Nazis. Anonymous 8:36 9:16 point out the nature of the process. Yes, it should all go faster. Stream lining procedures is something that always needs to be worked on. No small business should be jerked around endlessly and needlessly. And the place to begin is by putting pressure on our city council member and hold her accountable. Demand to see fewer pictures of her in the bulletin and more direct factual responses to what she has concretely been doing to see that this horror story for tenants an small business is never repeated. It is interesting that when tree branches fall in parks following storms, there is always an out cry why didn't the city do something about it in advance. The explosion on Second Avenue has highlighted a series of conditions that were allowed to develop by landlords who looked the other way, by city officials who didn't act appropriately, and by Con Ed.

cmarrtyy said...

Today the city is being over-whelmed by it's needs and is incapable of delivering services. There are not enough inspectors in this case to move quickly and efficiently to make life bearable for a person seeking service. There's too much government and at times not enough. The city has to re-examine how it delivers services. Or the future will look like a 4th world country... we're already beyond 3rd. Help!

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

It seemed to take forever for the Halal Guys on 14th St to get inspected too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:53 this is 08:35

Not enough inspectors? Are you kidding. Have you ever been in DOB offices? Have you seen the numbers of staff?

The problem is they are not accountable for doing nothing and gossiping.

Just one example as to how to speed up the process when a licensed plumber submits a job as ready and the inspector goes out and finds the gas line ok - he should have the direct number of the Con Ed inspector to call - so that they schedule a meet time at the site later that day to jointly review the job - Con Ed should not supercede the DOB - then a further call to the reconnect squad for a same day appt.

Owners, supers, plumbers are all juggling their days to satisfy Con Ed.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:51, the "city" is an unaccountable governmental (i.e. socialist) organization. When 99.99+% of building owners follow the law and don't allow bad things to happen, we don't need more regulations, which simply expand the power and scope of the unaccountable socialist Organization, while hitting up the taxpayer$ for millions. What we do need is for the unaccountable socialist Organization to uphold the law and prosecute guilty parties. I'm shocked--shocked--that that hasn't happened.

Bill, enemy of the Organization, especially the mobsters called pols and bureaucrats

Anonymous said...

Ha! I would lv to see a DOB inspector hanging out on hold waiting for an appt. with Con Edison. The system has had improvements under Bloomberg NBAT, HUB, self certifiy options etc. which is why development boom was up before 2008 economic crisis and has since recovered. DOB head is appointed by Mayor so yet to see how de Blasio's appointee makes his mark. Was told there is 1 plumbing inspector per each borough.

1 building inspecter for every 35,000 people in NYC, yeah, that should work ... said...

According to this article published in 2002:

"But the agency doesn't have the manpower to inspect every project. Last year, 5,114 buildings were built from the ground up, while 81,421 existing structures got alterations. The city employed just 230 inspectors, who could only keep tabs on the most pressing projects.

Everybody seems to love lower taxes and smaller government. Then they complain that stuff blows up.

Anonymous said...

Bill @ 12:32 PM
Wow. So you makeup your own word definitions, AND your own statistics.
You're half way there, Bill. Just tell us what political office you'll be running for.

blue glass said...

2:22 you say "Everybody seems to love lower taxes and smaller government. Then they complain that stuff blows up."

if our taxes actually paid for services and workers that work (not sitting by an answering computer while they surf the internet), your comment would have credence.
but if you look at what our taxes actually pay for it wouldn't matter if they were to increase ten thousand fold.
tax money does not go for services, it goes to those open-handed officials who hand out contracts paid for by our taxes and kick backs.
the system is so broken that it's hard to tell where to start to unravel the mess. it's like a ball of yarn that several cats have toyed with for years.

Anonymous said...

What statistics did I make up?

I'll pay you $1M to pay him $500K to pay her $50K to ... aw screw it ... we don't need it done so bad anyway ... said...

@blue glass: Our taxes have gone more and more to contractors, less and less to government employees because of pressure to reduce the size of government. So instead of paying a civil servant $X we pay a contractor company $(X+Y) to hire someone to fill that position. And because Y is often quite large, the contractor often finds it profitable to subcontract to another company to provide the worker.

Do you really think that 230 building inspectors (2002 figure, not sure what it is right now, but probably very close) for all of New York City is reasonable? That's not a "ball of yarn". It is, in my opinion at least, a deliberate effort to prevent the enforcement of the building code as a gift to the real estate and construction industries. And then the corrupt politicians who foisted this on us end up being cheered for "cutting costs" and "reducing government" by the very folks who are dying as a result.

DrGecko said...

Bill, you made up 64.7% of your statistics.

Source: the Internet.

Anonymous said...

you need to take a basic math course. Just not in a NYC public "school."


Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

Libertarians are great at spouting superficial, juvenile dogma, but are probably not so great at actually running stuff.

Anonymous said...

Terrible that they didn't make their goal. Can't they run another crowd-funding campaign? I didn't give the first time (budget is Social Security only) but I'd give something and talk it up.

Anonymous said...

Why is it so hard for people to concede that Bill has a point and not descend into attacks and meanness? So you don't agree with the guy on all things but that does not mean that there is no truth in what he says esp. when he provides quoted sources. If this is EV attitude (which used to be that it takes all kinds) then yes, EV is dead.

Anonymous said...

Anon July 3 2:22 pm.

Had the plumbing work actually been inspected by DOB or Con Edison, then perhaps the EV explosion may not have happened.
"Nine days later a licensed plumber, Andrew Trombettas, certified that the problem had been fixed, and Con Ed restored the gas, officials said. The certification was filed with the Buildings Department, officials said. Neither Con Ed nor the department were required to follow up after it was certified by the plumber, officials said. Trombettas did not return calls."

Though how the heck Con Edison restored gas without follow up makes no sense as they have to be physically present to turn it back on.

So sometimes going slow is better than fast even though it hurts like the dickens.

Anonymous said...

I would like to get a message to the owners of B&H: Please try to hold on! If you can hang on long enough to reopen, we'll come back and eat there!