MANHATTAN — As thousands upon thousands of drivers crawl through Manhattan streets every day, they need to watch the fuel gauge closely. The borough's gas stations continue to disappear, leaving only a handful below 96th Street.
New residential and commercial developments are replacing the gas stations.
"You put a building here and then God knows how much you are going to make a month," Mobil manager Julian Piper said. The gas station he works at on West 145th street was recently sold. "I think it sold for $10 million."
Next door and across the street, former gas stations are already torn down or boarded up. Much of the new construction on former gas-station sites is for high-end projects, but longtime Harlem resident Robert Coleman said he hopes the 145th Street properties will benefit the community.
"If you put in low-income housing and stuff like that, people are gonna be able to get apartments," Coleman said. "It's a beautiful thing."
According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, only 31 gas stations are in operation in Manhattan. There are just six at or below 96th Street.
New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs reports there were 42 gas stations on the island in 2016. The borough lost 11 fueling spots in just one year.
It's become a hardship for many drivers. Mark Santana, a driver for Drop Car, a valet on-demand service, said it's stressful.
"You not only waste time looking but at gas stations like this one; real small and just undermanned," Santana said.
Yellow-cab drivers frequent the gas station on East 96th Street and First Avenue. It's one of the few spots where they can fill up between shuttling passengers.
"We need more," one driver said.
But that's unlikely to happen as valuable Manhattan real estate is gobbled up by hungry developers.