Local officials ‘outraged’ over midtown’s $5 per gallon gas



Bisma Mobil gas station at 718 11th Avenue. Photo: Martin Rather.

With a gas station in Hell’s Kitchen charging $4.99 per gallon for regular gasoline, well above the national average, local elected officials are asking for the end to a pricing structure that they deem to be excessive.

State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, as well as State Senator Brad Hoylman, are asking for Bisma Mobil Gas Station, a full-service station at 718 11th Avenue, to reduce its price for gas. Both politicians represent midtown in the New York State Legislature, and are now calling on the station to look into changing its prices or face potential action from the New York State Legislature.

Currently, the station charges $4.99 per gallon for grade-87 gasoline, the typical ethanol source for American cars. The national average for this type of gas is $2.83, while the New York State average is $2.95, according to data from gasbuddy.com, a website that tracks retail gas prices.

Gasoline prices vary depending on what is happening in the energy market, yet Bisma’s gas has stayed fixed at $4.99 for several months. Having non-fluctuating prices for gasoline “isn’t going along with the ebb-and-flow of the market,” says Robert Sinclair, Jr, manager of Media Relations for AAA Northeast, a group that studies retail gasoline prices.

A store manager at Bisma Mobil declined to comment for this story. The phone number listed on the store’s website is disconnected. However, gas stations within two miles of the Bisma Mobil station do not charge such high prices. A self-service BP station located at 466 10th Avenue, just eleven blocks away from Bisma Mobil station, charges $3.69 per gallon. A customer there, Jackie De Luna, said that she “would never” pay $5 per gallon, “full-service or not.”

High prices in New York City are nothing new, but no other gas station within 100 miles of Manhattan charges within $1, or 25 percent, of the Bisma Mobil gas station, according to gasbuddy.com. All gas stations in New Jersey, which are required by state law to be full-service, have gas prices as low as $2.61 per gallon.

Bisma Mobil does not list their prices online, a marked departure from the other 11 Manhattan gas stations.  Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service believes that this station may not “necessarily want to sell a lot of gasoline” due to their auto-repair shop located on the premises. However, all four of the Mobil station’s pumps were full during the work week.

They may not be full for long, at least not at these prices, if the area’s local elected officials have their way. Assemblywoman Rosenthal said that the New York State Legislature passed a zone pricing law in 2008 preventing wholesale energy companies from charging higher prices based on location, but that no such law exists preventing retailers, like the Bisma Mobil station, from charging high prices to consumers.

“The Assembly has a bill that we’ve passed in 2017, and we’ve passed it again in 2018, that would curb this practice, make it illegal to gouge in this manner,” she said, adding that the bill hasn’t passed in the State Senate yet. She hopes that will happen next session. “It clearly needs a fix in the law; there are too many loopholes in retail establishments. We need to amend the law to include them.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said that “when there are such a small number of gasoline stations in a borough like Manhattan, gas station operators feel that they can charge what they wish, because there are so few choices.” Hoylman said there is no current regulation around gas prices as was the case when price gouging occurred around the time of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “There was legislation to try and stop that, but in the ordinary course of business, there is not.”

Both politicians want to see an end to unfair gas prices in Manhattan, even though petroleum and gas interests are not known for their “consumer-friendly policies,” according to Rosenthal. “But this here is an outrageous ripoff. It’s a plain ripoff. It’s taking advantage of the public.”