fb-pixel Skip to main content

Still without gas, Academy Homes residents bundle up over a cold Christmas

Ella May Broaddusx, 83, sat in her Academy Homes apartment with a space heater to keep warm while she watched TV. Approximately 500 residents of the Roxbury housing development have been living without gas service. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Wrapped in a bundle of coats and blankets Wednesday morning, Beryl Harris sat in her Roxbury living room with an electric furnace pointed at her feet as she flipped through the pages of a newspaper with gloved hands.

Harris, 87, was one of about 500 residents of the Academy Homes housing development living without gas service since Friday, after utility crews found several leaks in the complex’s piping, according to Ed Cafasso, spokesman for Academy Homes.

“It’s part of life. You have to make do with what you got,” said Harris, who has lived in the development for 50 years. “Sorry it happened at Christmastime, but it could happen anytime.”


Crews from National Grid, the utility company that provides Academy Homes with gas service, have been going door to door this week replacing approximately 450 gas valves throughout the complex. Each of the 202 apartments has two valves — one for the furnace and one for the stove — Cafasso said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

According to Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office, 120 of the development’s units had gas service restored by 7 p.m. Wednesday, while more than 80 units were expected to have gas service restored on Thursday.

A gas worker walked through the Academy Homes housing development. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

In a Wednesday statement, Urban Edge, which co-owns the development along with Academy Homes I Tenants Council, said, “We anticipate that a majority of residents will have service restored by the end of this evening, and that service will be restored in full by early tomorrow afternoon.”

In an attempt to minimize the discomfort caused by the five-day gas outage, each household was offered a free electric cooktop, two electric heaters, and warm meals, courtesy of Urban Edge.

“It’s inconvenient and it’s tough, but one can get by,” Sarah Brens, a 15-year resident, said in an interview in Spanish. “Management tries to help you, and they’ve done their job.”


Some of the food was donated by churches and other local organizations. They also donated blankets, Harris said.

Before gas service could be restored, the city had to sign off on the repairs in the Columbus Avenue development.

“Once [the city’s Inspectional Services Department] is satisfied with the work that has been done, they will give the go-ahead for National Grid to restore the gas flow to the property,” Cafasso said.

“We have to be methodical and cautious with all this,” he said. “But everything is an expectation. If there’s an issue, or if something happens during this process, [a delay] is entirely possible.”

Fritz Accime, 50, a 20-year resident of Academy Homes, was hoping the development’s management would pay for residents to stay in hotels until the problem is fixed. Staying in a cold apartment over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was disappointing, he said, but he was relieved to see that National Grid crews had identified the gas issue before things got worse.

“It’s frustrating, but, hey, there’s nothing you can do,” Accime said. “It’s better to catch that early [rather] than later. We see what happened in Lawrence, and we don’t want that to happen to us.”

Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover were rocked by a series of fires and explosions in September after gas leaked into dozens of homes. Thousands of residents were forced out of their homes for weeks or months as Columbia Gas crews worked to replace the faulty gas lines in the three communities.


A man walked through the Academy Homes housing development.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Fliers posted throughout Academy Homes Christmas Day reassured residents and explained the problem and the efforts that were being made to fix the gas lines. The fliers, which were posted by WinnResidential, the property management company, also informed residents about when and where they could get free hot food.

Harris said she thinks residents have been given the resources to get by as crews continue the laborious process of fixing the gas lines. Until the valves are repaired and inspected, residents just have to hang in there, she said.

“This could have happened anywhere at any time,” Harris said. “It’s the luck of the draw, and if it’s our turn, it’s our turn, and you just have to wait until it gets done.”

Danny McDonald and Katie Camero contributed to this report. Andres Picon can be reached at andres.picon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andpicon.