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Public housing residents without gas say ‘NYCHA can’t take the thanks out of Thanksgiving’

GRAVESEND, Brooklyn — Across the city, thousands of New York City Housing Authority residents had to overcome one big obstacle if they planned to cook a Thanksgiving meal in their homes: there was no gas.

NYCHA listed 36 buildings across the five boroughs without gas for the holiday.  But residents at one Brooklyn building were determined not to let it ruin their Thanksgiving.

Margie Simmons was ready to invite everyone into her home this Thanksgiving.

“Whoever’s hungry, feel free to come see me, Rashida, or Yaya and you will have a home cooked meal,” she said as she welcomed PIX11 inside.

Simmons and her neighbors at Building 28 of the Marlboro Houses have been without gas for two months, which meant no stove to cook her Thanksgiving feast.

“It’s a decoration,” she said as she gestured toward the useless oven.

But that didn’t stop her from whipping up the traditional sides. She borrowed a toaster oven from her daughter to make stuffing, mac and cheese, and yams.  The Turkey was swapped out for a smaller bird due to the limited size of her deep fryer. It was a welcome surprise for Simmons’s 8-year-old granddaughter, Nini.

“They can’t make turkey, but at least they have chicken,” Niilah Simmons said.  “Chicken has some flavor in it.”

“You know what my granddaughter is going to say?  She’s going to say, ‘I remember the year my grandmother didn’t have gas, but she did the best she could and it was good.’”

Simmons knew she wasn’t the only one experiencing the hardship, which is why she and some neighbors decided to come together to share their cooking with everyone in the building.

“Our first priority is elderly first and make sure that they have something to eat and have a good Thanksgiving as well,” said Colette James.

James made a roast in her slow cooker to add to the feast. Her daughter found another kitchen to bake pies, a ham, and several other delicious dishes.

“Somebody opened their home for us to use their kitchen and I think that is just awesome because they didn’t have to do that.”

Neighbors said they could smell the cooking in the hallways and stopped in only to leave with a Thanksgiving feast to take back to their own apartments.

“We are a bunch of strong-ass women,” said Simmons. “We’re not going to let nothing and nobody stop us from what we need to do for our families and our children.”

“NYCHA can’t take the thanks out of Thanksgiving,” added James.

And they vowed to stay on top of the housing authority to make sure the gas is back on in time for Christmas.

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