By Sabina Mollot
Close to a year after getting pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, Peter Cooper Village, much of which was flooded by a raging East River, is still the site of ongoing repairs in multiple buildings.
Though a couple of buildings in Stuyvesant Town also saw significant damage, it was PCV that saw the lion’s share of damage, in particular destroyed basements that housed laundry and storage facilities.
This week, a T&V reporter took a stroll through a few buildings’ basements to get an idea of the progress of the repair work, which, at least, at the addresses of 601 East 20th Street and 420, 440 and 510 East 23rd Street, appear to be months away from completion.
However, at each of the buildings, during a recent afternoon, bunches of workers were onsite in various basement rooms, focusing on walls on floors.
In those buildings, where for months basements were verboten, now, due to the availability of temporary laundry rooms, residents can sneak peeks at the progress, which includes newly built concrete cinderblock walls in the old laundry rooms, cleared out bike rooms with, in some cases, new hooks on the walls to hold the bikes, new fire sprinkler systems overhead and the beginning of construction of new recycling stations. Additionally, at 601 East 20th Street, there were gleaming new, light-colored floors for the laundry, bike and storage rooms. There were also signs of the beginning of installation of new wiring by basement doors and new overhead pipes in certain rooms in the buildings.
Additionally, in 420, a resident noted that pipes in the temporary laundry room that had previously had a dripping problem, had been wrapped up.
That resident, who didn’t want her name used, also weighed in on the ongoing work.
“This is definitely progress,” she said, “but it’s coming up on a year.”
The resident, who said she refuses to use the temporary, free washers and dryers, and also didn’t care for two fly paper traps that loomed a few feet above them, observed how there are also no longer any laundry carts. There was however a folding table, put in by management, and next to it was a card table likely put there by a resident. The woman added that there’s been no word on what’s to become of building’s paid storage unit room, destroyed by the superstorm. “They haven’t said a word. There’s been no timetable.”
As for the temporary washers and dryers, word is the machines, which are smaller than the commercial grade ones that preceded them, came from an army base in the south.
Meanwhile, outside the buildings, a recent round of landscaping has been restoring Peter Cooper Village’s green spaces to their former glory. All except for a couple of garden areas, now all fenced off, have fresh grass and plantings. A couple of areas that are still bare soil were being worked on by landscapers and on Tuesday were marked with flags.
A heavily tree-lined area, which previously had a cow path through it due to people taking shortcuts on the grass, is now completely green.
Something of an eyesore though is the boarded up basement windows in the buildings that had been flooded. Some basements also currently have what appear to be wooden paths trailing from the windows across the lawns, which are what’s housing temporary power feeds.
510 is one of the buildings with a power feed, where inside on Tuesday it looked like new electrical wiring was being installed and a recycling station was in the early process of being built. Nearby walls yet to be repaired appeared Swiss-cheese-like due to being covered with holes. Other walls however had already had their water-damaged plaster stripped, leaving the rough concrete underneath exposed.
A resident at 440 also commented on the progress on his building to note that activity had stopped for a while and then picked up again in mid-September.
“They’re nowhere near done,” he observed. “It looks the same as it did a month ago.”
The resident, Jonathan Turkel, added that since repairs had started again, it had been pretty noisy, including on a recent Saturday morning. But that didn’t bother him, he said. What did bother him was when on Wednesday morning, he was awoken by the smell of gasoline in the building, which, it turned out, was due to a worker accidentally spilling some in the basement. Turkel said he’d initially asked workers what was up only to have them say they hadn’t done anything. Still concerned over the smell, Turkel then called 911 and firefighters responded. It was the firefighter, Turkel, said who learned from a worker that gas had been spilled, despite his initially telling Turkel and the FDNY otherwise.
Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, did not respond by T&V’s deadline when asked about the gas incident and also didn’t respond to a request for comment on the status of the Sandy repairs.
However, last month, Moriarty told Town & Village work was expected to be completed later this fall.
This was in response to Council Member Dan Garodnick’s calling on CWCapital to speed up the work on the basements, noting that management had previously given a timetable of September for their reopening.
“This has taken far longer than anyone could have reasonably expected,” Garodnick said at the time, “and residents deserve an explanation and compensation.”
But according to CW, the delay was due to the frustratingly lengthy process of acquiring approvals from numerous agencies.
“As we’ve said,” said Moriarty in September, “rebuilding the 17 basements that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy is a complex project that, beyond the physical work and procurement of materials with long lead times, involves numerous agencies that must review and approve plans for every aspect of each basement’s infrastructure and careful scheduling and staging of contractors to ensure the work is completed as quickly and safely as possible with the minimum disruption for our residents.”
He added that “although some residents may not yet see physical work being done in their basement, we assure you that significant progress has been made in all basements. We are making every effort to finish this work as soon as possible, and expect it will be done later this fall.”
Meanwhile, John Marsh, the president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, said he had no complaints this week about the fact that the repairs weren’t complete. In fact, Marsh, who lives in Peter Cooper, said that overall he thought CW was doing the best it could under the circumstances.
“Given the amount of devastation, they’re really working hard,” he said. “There’s a lot of remediation they had to do first and a lot of manufacturing was customized for their needs and there’s the fact that they were competing with every other Sandy-impacted area as well.”
He also said he thought the special servicer had done well with mold prevention, treating the issue “aggressively.”
At this time, added Marsh, though the basements aren’t close to being completed, he thought residents had bigger worries, in particular two recently issued major capital improvement rent increases for video intercoms in Stuy Town and other security upgrades in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper