Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at why utility bills in New York will probably be significantly higher this winter. We’ll also look at 34 garage doors that became the canvas for an attention-getting art installation.
When the temperature is in the 80s, as it will be today and tomorrow, why think about winter? Because utility companies and energy experts expect steeper utility bills for electricity, natural gas and oil.
“People are going to be looking at big increases,” said Mark Wolfe, the executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, which projects that heating costs will rise 12 percent nationally, outpacing inflation.
But he said the increases in New York are likely to be steeper.
Con Edison has already predicted that a typical customer’s electric bill in its territory in New York City will climb 22 percent, to $116 a month, from $95 a month last winter. The company said it expects the typical natural gas user’s bill for heating and cooking to jump 32 percent, to $460 a month, from $348 a month last winter.
National Grid, which supplies natural gas in Brooklyn, Staten Island and parts of Queens, projected a 28 percent increase from last year. It said the increase for its customers on Long Island would be $299, up 29 percent from last year.
Energy prices became a dreaded question mark in household budgets after Russia invaded Ukraine — how high would gasoline prices go as the strain on global energy supplies continued?
Wolfe said last week that energy prices appeared to be stabilizing, “but they’re stabilizing at a very high level.” He estimated that homes with oil heat in New York would spend $239 more over the coming five-month heating season than they spent a year ago, or an average of $2,115 this winter, up from $1,876 last winter.
But based on current inventories, a cold winter could compound the pressure on prices, said Rocco Lacertosa, the chief executive of the New York State Energy Coalition, representing heating oil dealers.
And it could be a very cold winter. New York was under the words “significant shivers — slushy, icy, snowy” on the map with the forecast from the Farmers’ Almanac. The forecast said December “looks stormy and cold nationwide,” with the East under “an active storm pattern.” January could bring “one of the coldest outbreaks of Arctic air we have seen in several years.”
“We’re in a potential perfect storm,” Lacertosa said. “I hate to say that, but I’m concerned about consumers, I’m concerned about dealers being able to do what they need to do and pay their own bills.” As for the direction of energy prices, “I’m not going to be that optimistic right now,” he said.
Utility bills are already piling up. Wolfe estimated that one in six families is behind nationwide. The American Rescue Plan, a big pandemic relief package that was approved last year, set aside $4.5 billion in addition to almost $4 billion from the Home Energy Assistance Program. New York State has its own arrears forgiveness program, with more than $800 million available to wipe out past due utility bills for low-income households.
But as my colleague Isabella Simonetti noted, when a household is cold in the winter, the temptation is to turn to potentially deadly solutions — like space heaters. One that had been left running for days caught fire in an apartment in a high-rise in the Bronx in January. Smoke from the burning heater poured into the hallway because the door to the apartment with the heater had not closed by itself when the residents fled, as it was supposed to. The smoke spread through the building, and 17 people died.
Con Edison acknowledged the pain that higher bills can cause by releasing its winter forecast in early September, rather than in late October or early November, as in past years. “We recognize it’s a hardship,” said Jamie McShane, a Con Edison spokesman.
Con Edison attributed the increases to the cost of natural gas. Of the $112 increase for gas customers, it said that $90 was for the gas, and that it was just passing along the price it pays because it does not mark up the wholesale price.
Higher gas prices also affect the cost of electricity because generating plants run mainly on natural gas, so whenever the price of natural gas goes up, it is followed by a corresponding increase in the cost of electricity.
It will be a mostly sunny day with above-normal temperatures as a high-pressure system builds. Tonight, expect clear skies and lows in the 60s.
In effect until Sept. 26 (Rosh Hashana).
U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY
It’s another “gridlock alert day.” The city is once again urging drivers to stay off the roads and avoid time-wasting traffic tie-ups, especially on the East Side of Manhattan. With the United Nations General Assembly in session, there will be more than the usual mishmash of limousines and escorts.
The latest New York news
Budget worries: The city is facing a potential fiscal crisis because the pandemic-driven downturn has cut municipal revenue from business and personal-income taxes.
Migrants on ships: The city’s shelter system is so burdened with new arrivals that Mayor Eric Adams is considering housing them on cruise ships.
Trump adviser’s trial: Jury selection began on Monday in Brooklyn in the trial of Thomas Barrack, whose case could shed light on how foreign governments vied for access to the Trump administration.
Final bow for “Dear Evan Hansen”: The show, which won the Tony Award for best new musical in 2017, closed after nearly 1,700 performances.
A mural four blocks long
Zaniyah Howell, 14, was up on a ladder with the Rocky Mountain Sky. Her sister Domenicia, 13, was on the sidewalk below with the Blue Lapis. They were concentrating on their brushwork.
They were painting part of a four-block-long mural in the West Village — if you think of a long line of roll-up garage doors at a UPS delivery facility as a mural. The 34 loading-dock doors have gone from bland to bright in the last few days. One got a makeover in Miami Green and Bahama Sea Blue. Another became half Berry Wine Oriole and half Grape Green.
Hudson Square Properties, which is putting up an office building across Greenwich Avenue from the UPS center, enlisted the nonprofit Publicolor to brighten the neighborhood. Publicolor, which runs programs for students at risk of dropping out, sees painting as a way to prepare them for later life. It says that all of the students in its tutoring programs and after-school workshops go on to college or accredited programs after high school.
Its students have spruced up more than 300 schools and 250 community facilities since Publicolor began in the 1990s, including a building in Downtown Brooklyn that the Howell sisters worked on during the summer. Domenicia said the walls there were “bumpy.”
Hudson Square Properties approached UPS about painting the gates. “We’re honored to be the canvas,” said Laura James, a global community director with the UPS Foundation. She described the look before the mural makeover as “gray — not apocalyptic but nothing fun to look at.” Domenicia described it as “old and rusty and plain.”
Not anymore. Ruth Lande Shuman, the founder of Publicolor, worked out the design and arranged the colors, and Hudson Square Properties covered the costs and assembled 280 volunteers from 57 companies, many of which are tenants in buildings in its commercial real estate portfolio in the area. They worked with 80 students from Publicolor.
“This was a huge departure for us,” James said. “We tend to fade into the background. We’re going to have to get used to being the pretty one on the block.”
Little red Datsun
In 1975, my older sister, a single mother in her late 20s, moved from Vermont to an apartment in the West 80s in Manhattan. Because she would no longer need her little red Datsun with a stick shift, she offered to sell it to me.
I was living in Ohio at the time. I took a bus to New York, and the next morning we went to Long Island to get the car, which was parked at a friend’s house.
It was my first time driving a stick shift since first learning how, but I was managing OK. I dropped my sister off at work. Her two children were at day care.
I took the car to get the oil changed and then headed back to her place, where I was planning to stay another night before going home.
There were no parking spots on her block and none on the next either. Or the next. Or the next. I was no longer doing OK with the stick shift.
I double parked outside my sister’s building, ran upstairs, grabbed my stuff and left a note: “I couldn’t find a place to park so I’m leaving for Ohio.”
— Susan Creed
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
You can reach the team at [email protected]