(CNN) — When Donald Trump is President, if you live in New York City you have one of two choices: spend your hard-earned money and find a cheap hotel room or live in a cardboard box in Brooklyn.
I have an alternate solution to those heated financial decisions: waste $400,000 fixing up an abandoned gas station.
The past few months have been my introduction to George Joel’s Joy Oil Gas Station , at Fourth Avenue and 63rd Street in Manhattan. For anyone living in New York or who grew up in the city, Joel’s 1950s gas station is part of the city’s history.
I learned more about this unsung building from a recent New York Times article titled, “Gas Station Runs Out of Cash for Repairs.” My 3-year-old and I visited the building in July after getting a tip. I spent a leisurely Saturday learning about the history of the space, interviewing the building’s owner, Dominick Caruso, and looking around.
The closure of natural gas service at Joel’s station in 2015 created several issues, including further deterioration of the concrete floor and electrical wiring. The cost of repairs had already reached $400,000 before the Times article came out.
Caruso put up a fence around the building and installed antique and hard-to-find lighting. But the changes have not made the building obsolete, he said.
“At the moment we’re pretty much up to date,” he said.
The building that housed the original gas station was torn down to build a condo project in 2009. The site is now owned by Infinity Asset Management, according to city records.
The third and final staircase in the historic gas station. Sinfully funny nickname. Sinful. © 2017 Getty Images
Infinity declined to comment.
Restoring the building in 2020 is a little too early for Caruso, but he’s waiting to see how the investment will affect the property and his business, he said.
The legendary gas station. © 2017 Getty Images
The most tedious task — and reminder that this is the subway system — is replacing the light fixtures, Caruso said. He has a personal fondness for working with copper pipes, and said he’d like to maintain the copper.
Reversing the character of the building is challenging. The railings were made from a vintage horse crate with gold fixtures. The gas pumps — which outfitted the station for years — are still copper.
“It’s probably the most difficult part of the whole job,” Caruso said.
It’s clear that Joel’s Gas Station is well loved, even by the powers that be. The building has a whimsical nickname, Sinful Winters Past, even if some of its attractions, like a sprinkler system, have long since been shut off. One photograph showed a young George Joel supervising a repair crew. His 10-year-old son also helped.
The exterior of Joy Oil Gas Station. Sinful. © 2017 Getty Images
“Joy Oil Station is owned by the very capable Leona Helmsley as a concession for her Punch line dancers,” Caruso wrote in a text message.
I asked the owner about the “shameless jigging,” to which he replied: “If it wasn’t for Mr. Joel there would be no Punch Line, so yep.”