If any location screams “budget-conscious,” it’s this historic gas station just two blocks from City Hall. Built in 1888 for Gay Ray-Lien, the first woman to run a full-service gas station in New York City, the Joy Oil Bodega sits closed next to the bullet-riddled boiler room where seven inmates were killed in February 2001 by law enforcement and police in riot gear. Its latest repairs have cost the city more than $400,000. And neither its owner, Joy Oil, nor the city wants to pay for additional fixes.
Joy Oil bought the building at 630 Fifth Ave. from its previous landlord for $550,000 in 2014. It spent another $300,000 to convert the building to the Grocery Artisan Express, where glass shelves display 100 spices. In January, the company planned to start work on repainting and structural repairs to its eponymous gas station. But city construction inspector Andrea Hudes says Joy Oil never had a license to operate a retail business in the city.
The company is currently in arbitration with the city on the matter. It’s also currently looking for another location to open a store. The dispute over which repairs should be made at 630 Fifth—and if the city should pay for them—has frustrated New Yorkers and irked city officials, who say the Joy Oil building is a building that belongs to the city. While Hudes and Mayor Bill de Blasio have said they will demolish the building, which, when not in use, remains a thriving, historic space in the nation’s capital. But Hudes says it needs repairs.
“We are not living in the past and we are not living in the 20th century,” Hudes said. “It’s outdated and it needs to be rehabilitated.”
Joy Oil’s spokeswoman, Beth McCarthy, said her company is eager to open a business and hopes to begin the repairs soon, but says it also wants the city to remove a collection of historical artifacts that have been installed on the property.
“These historical artifacts are not protected by federal laws,” McCarthy said. “We really don’t want to alter them. We would like to see them removed from the building.”
One New Yorker, Joe Stergiocia, said while he doesn’t have a problem with putting a store there, he believes Joy Oil should get better at asking for repairs.
“They’ll renovate a few things if they know they’re spending a lot of money,” he said. “I don’t know if the city gets a cut for their labor. But why don’t they ask for the repairs? Give them a little credit. A $400,000 do as we say, not as we do.”