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Vacca rips ‘pricey’ parkway gas stations

With gas prices up all over the borough, Councilman Jimmy Vacca has targeted two local gas stations he feels are pumping the community for exorbitant amounts of money.

The two stations in question, Citgo stations along the Hutchinson River Parkway near E. Tremont Avenue, charge significantly higher prices than other gas stations just blocks away.

Vacca is calling on Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe, whose agency controls the concession for the stations on each side of the parkway, to cancel the lease it grants to owner Super Value Oil.

Vacca then wants the new concessionaire who takes over the Citgo stations to charge no more than 3 cents higher than any other gas station in a one-mile radius, on or off the parkway.

“Today [May 23], the CITGO gas station on the Hutchinson River Parkway in my district set the price for regular gasoline at $4.49. This represents the highest price in the borough,” Vacca said. “It is not the first time that this type of excessive overpricing has occurred here – these two stations are notorious for charging 25 to 35 cents more than stations only three blocks away. Shame on them for preying on highway drivers with little choice but to fill up at their station.”

By comparison, a nearby British Petroleum on E. Tremont Avenue was selling regular gas for only $4.23, a $.26 cent per gallon difference. 

Vacca said that he had received assurances from Parks saying they would look into the matter when renewing the concession, and thinks Parks can help the stations set more reasonable prices. Parks agrees.

“The Parks Department is sending the concessionaire, Super Value, a ‘Notice to Cure’ that states their gas prices are not consistent with the prices charged in other area gas stations and should be adjusted to comply with the terms of the contract,” said Jesslyn Taio, a spokesperson for Parks.  

A representative of Super Value, which manages the gas stations, said it is unrealistic for Vacca and Parks to make a demand on the concessionaire to charge less for gas.

The Super Value representative, Keith Kaplan, said the logistics of operating a gas station on the parkway makes it impossible to lower prices, which peaked on May 29 at $4.49 a gallon for a regular, unleaded.

“First of all, our overhead costs of operating two gas stations on the parkway are more for a gas station even two blocks away,” Kaplan said. “The city is our landlord, and they charge a substantial rent. We also can’t sell cigarettes or anything other than gas.”

Kaplan said that the higher operating costs leads to higher gas costs.

“I don’t think that’s a legitimate excuse to consistently charge 30 cents more per gallon than stations just three or four blocks away,” Vacca responded.

Several motorists at the gas stations during a morning commute said they are concerned about the spike in gas prices eating away at their wallets.

“Over the past month, I’ve noticed how much gas costs are going up, and it is really unbearable, because I have a 30-mile commute,” said motorist Jonathan Ruisi, who was at the southbound station on Monday, June 2.

“I buy the coffee [at Dunkin Donuts], but I refuse to get gas here,” stated motorist Paul O’Sullivan, who was at the station.

One motorist agreed that the high prices are due to its location.

“Obviously, it is the location,” said Ray Torok, who drives the road to work and took notice of the 30 cent difference.

Vacca insists the concessionaire needs to be changed since the stations charge the highest prices in the Bronx.

“If a gas station can’t earn money at this site without setting outrageous prices,” he commented, “maybe the city should consider alternate uses for the property.”

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