By Sabina Mollot
When Superstorm Sandy struck nearly five years ago, the buildings at Haven Plaza, a low and middle-income apartment complex located a block south of Stuyvesant Town, incurred massive damage. Following an explosion at the nearby Con Ed generating plant, Haven Plaza’s electrical system shorted out. Along with everyone else living in the adjacent communities, residents of Haven Plaza’s 371 apartments were trapped without elevator service, electricity or heat. Men and women of the National Guard shared field rations with residents, many of them seniors, until the power returned.
Following the disaster, the property underwent a much-needed $50 million overhaul in repairs and renovations. This included work on roofs and elevators that had to be replaced.
Then last month, another major project with a price tag of nearly $10 million began aimed at preventing future disaster-related damage on the property.
That project is a new, two-story infrastructure building designed to be disaster-resistant as well as associated resiliency upgrades at the complex, which is located on Avenue C between 10th and 13th Streets.
The property is owned by Haven Plaza Square LLC, a nonprofit and affiliate of the Association of New York Catholic Homes with the pastor of nearby Catholic Church Immaculate Conception, Monsignor Kevin Nelan, as its president, as well as the New York Institute for Human Development (IHD).
“The purpose of the new building is that if there’s any flooding from the East River, the mechanics (in the complex) wouldn’t be affected,” said Nelan.
Additionally, the complex will no longer be dependent on steam from Con Ed, which lowers heating costs.
The groundbreaking for the structure was on June 2 on what was formerly an unused space, Nelan said.
The exact price of the new 2,080-square foot building, which was designed by CTA Architects, was $9.89 million. Located at Avenue C at East 13th Street, it will house three boilers for heating steam on the second level, with gas as the primary fuel; electrical meters, domestic hot water pumps, and hot water heaters on the first level; and oil backup storage in the protected sub-grade space, according to CTA Architects principal Daniel J. Allen, AIA.
In addition, the building was designed with the idea of being aesthetically pleasing due to its location on a busy East Village street.
“The front façade will be glazed to allow the passers-by to view the inner works of the building and equipment within,” Allen said.
When complete, the building will incorporate 1,300 square feet of glazed curtain wall, 1,500 square feet of metal façade panels, and 500 square feet of “green wall.” The green wall is a metal grid that will support vines and plants from an adjacent plaza to extend to the wall of the new building.
Following the flood lines being raised by FEMA after Sandy, the new building was designed to have its first floor one foot above the base flood elevation and six feet above ground level.
The funds for the project came from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) through the New York City Build It Back program. Build It Back assists landlords, homeowners and tenants whose properties were damaged by Sandy if they couldn’t get relief from other sources like the city’s Rapid Repairs program, state-sponsored buyouts, private insurance or federal loans.
At Haven Plaza, one third of the residents are Section 8 and rents are under $1,000. The buildings were built in 1968 as part of a city effort to combat urban blight. The development consists of three high-rise buildings, a two-story building with 11 townhomes, and a 185-car garage. Management is handled by The Wavecrest Management Team. There is currently a wait list to get in with wait times varying depending on the size of the apartment.
Like with most church-affiliated properties in the city, Haven Plaza has had no shortage of developers circling above with offers to buy, but according to Nelan, “There’s no chance of that happening” since the church affiliate has the controlling interest. “In our lifetime it would never be changed.”
While now considered prime real estate, the location of the building is actually a filled-in swamp. Due to the low bearing quality of the soil, the new building’s foundation system will incorporate 15 100-ton-capacity poured-concrete underground pilings.