Hurricane Sandy repairs still ongoing in Peter Cooper Village basements

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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

Memo from CompassRock: Some Peter Cooper Village basements may not reopen until September

Super Storm Sandy occurred over two and a half months ago. Since that time, we have made great progress in restoring services as quickly and safely as possible and we appreciate the support we have received from our residents.

Sandy caused historic devastation. It sent nine feet of storm water  into many of our basements, particularly in Peter Cooper Village, destroying most of the electrical and building control systems that are housed in those basements. As a result, many residents in Peter Cooper Village are still impacted.

Repairing electrical systems and the damage in the basements is a complex and laborious process. It requires highly specialized equipment, parts and technical expertise that would not be readily available under normal circumstances and for which we are competing with thousands of buildings throughout the region that demand those same resources as a result of the storm. Restoration also requires meticulous coordination and planning as repairs need to happen in a carefully orchestrated sequence in order to minimize any additional disruptions.

We are confident that we have the best team of engineers, contractors and staff members in the City working each day to restore these systems as quickly and safely as possible. While we understand that some residents are frustrated, we ask for your continued patience and assure you that we are making progress each and every day.

Below you will find our best assessment of the current conditions on Property. As we receive more information, we will provide additional updates.
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Alert for Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village: Tenants will get an extra 15 percent on rent abatement

The following is a property alert emailed to residents of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village by CompassRock this morning. The memo includes status reports on ongoing repairs and also said tenants will get an extra 15 percent on their rent abatement for days without heat and power. It also warns tenants their last rent checks may have been destroyed by the storm and not processed.

PROPERTY UPDATE     12.5.12

We continue to work diligently on restoration efforts throughout the property. Below please find updates of recent progress. We will continue to update you on additional progress and restoration timelines.

Gas Service: We are pleased to announce that all gas service was restored as of last Friday.

PCV Heat Distribution System and Water Pumps: Parts of Peter Cooper Village are still experiencing above normal heat at times and reduced water pressure due to the damage sustained to these systems. Necessary parts to repair these two systems are expected to arrive on-site by next week. We will provide a more detailed timeline as soon as it becomes available.
Rent Abatement: In addition to the previously announced abatement for days without electricity, heat or elevator service, we will also be providing a 15% rent abatement for each additional day a unit did not have gas service beyond when all other utilities were restored. Rent abatements will appear on your January rent bill.
Rent Bills: Your opening and closing balances may be higher than anticipated in your most recent bill since checks you remitted previously may have been destroyed by flooding during the storm and not processed. Please confirm with your bank that these payments were not processed, and issue payment for your total outstanding balance. If you cancel your prior payment and provide documentation of the bank fee for this service, we will refund the bank fee by issuing a credit on your next month’s rent statement. For all additional questions, please email accounting@pcvst.com.

Resident Services: Some of you may have experienced issues in trying to get through to us at the (212) 420-5000 number during peak times. We apologize for the inconvenience. Due to the storm, our phone capacity was reduced to one third of our standard capacity. As of the end of last week, the capacity for our phone lines was restored to pre-storm standards, which should resolve these issues. You can also reach the various departments via email:
residentservices@pcvst.com
accounting@pcvst.com
legal@pcvst.com
leasing@pcvst.comKey Card Access: We continue to work with third-party contractors to restore access cards in 440, 510, 530 E 23rd St.; 441, 511, 531, 541, 601 E 20th St.; 7 & 8 PCR. In some cases, this work is further complicated by the conditions in the basements. Once the basements are able to be demolished, restoration efforts should accelerate.  Contract security guards will remain posted in these buildings to provide access to residents who do not have carriage room keys for the entrance doors.

Intercoms: Intercom service was restored to the following buildings on schedule last week, with the exception of being able to contact Public Safety directly: 431 E 20th St; 2, 3, 4, PCR; 350, 360, 370, 390 First Ave. The intercoms in Stuyvesant Town buildings are operational but cannot access Public Safety at this time. We continue to work on restoring the connection between the intercoms and Public Safety and will notify you as soon as this has been completed.Two addresses which were scheduled to be restored with inter-building intercom service last week, 441 E 20th St and 5 PCR, have experienced worse damage to their infrastructure than initially realized. A timeline for the restoration of intercom service will be provided as soon as possible for these two buildings , as well as the other buildings that experienced extensive infrastructural damage: 420, 440, 510, 530 E 23rd St; 511, 531, 541, 601 E 20th St; 6, 7, 8 PCR.

Basement Access:  In the impacted basements, we continue to use dehumidification machines to help keep the basements dry until demolition is complete. These machines are being powered by generators which operate from 7AM-10PM Monday-Friday and 9AM-10PM on Saturday and Sunday.

·         Limited Access: Residents in the following buildings were granted access to those basements over the past several weeks during specific hours: 3, 4, 5, 6 PCR; 441, 541, 601, 620 E 20th St. (ST); 420, 440, 510, 530 E 23rd St. Access is no longer permitted to these basements as of December 1st. As previously explained, any property not removed is being discarded.

·         No Access: Access remains restricted to 511 and 531 E 20th St. and 7 & 8 PCR.

Demolition is expected to begin as soon as possible. At the request of the Tenants Association, demolition work was delayed by five days past the November 30th deadline to allow some residents extra time to access the storage areas. Once demolition is complete, we can begin to restore the laundry rooms, repair the electrical equipment and rebuild the basements in the affected buildings.

Trunks: We will be re-commencing trunk retrieval for trunks located in Stuyvesant Town beginning today. Please be aware that because of the backlog from the last month and the limited staff we are able to allocate given all the other priorities on the property, it may take longer than usual to schedule an appointment. We appreciate in advance, your patience. Please help to minimize the volume of requests and only request your trunk if it is absolutely necessary.

As previously reported, we continue to remove trunks from the flooded basements and store them securely. We are still working to identify a location and process to allow retrieval. As soon as that has been finalized, we will advise residents immediately and will provide you with 30 days to claim your trunks.

 

Parking: We remind you that all damaged cars not removed by December 15th will be towed by Quik Park at the vehicle owner’s expense. To contact Quik Park, please call (212) 832-2066.

ST-PCV Tenants Association: Think twice before signing storage waiver

The following notice was emailed from the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association to residents on Friday night regarding a waiver residents are being asked to sign if they want to be able to retrieve items from storage units or their bicycles from flooded Stuyvesant Town or Peter Cooper Village basements.

Tenants Association to Residents with Flooded Storage Units:  Think Twice About Signing Waiver

Recently, management advised tenants that they would provide access to basement storage areas so that residents with items in NTT storage or bicycles stored in basements in certain buildings.  Management’s notice is as follows:

Residents will have limited access to 3, 4, 5, 6 PCR; 441, 541, 601, 620 E20th St; 420, 440, 510, 530 E23rd St. Residents may retrieve personal property (NTT Storage or bikes) from these basements on weekdays from 5:30PM to 9PM and weekends from 10AM-2PM through November 30th. Any personal property not removed by November 30th will be discarded. Residents should go to the tent by PCV Playground 1 to be escorted into the basement.

What the notice did not say is that to gain access, residents would be required to execute a release.  The release is very broad and all encompassing.  It releases management, NTT and others involved in basement restoration from any claim whatsoever relating to or arising out of the tenant’s access to the Basement including, but not limited to, any actual or alleged injuries to (i) the tenant or any person(s) under the tenant’s control caused by or resulting from entering and being in the Basement; and (ii) any personal property located in the Basement.
While the Tenant’s Association cannot and is not providing residents with legal advice, we do believe that residents should think very carefully before signing this release.  The basements of many of these buildings have suffered serious damage and may well be contaminated with mold, among other possibilities. Workers in those buildings have been observed wearing protective suits and masks.  Management is asking you to sign this waiver and completely release them from any harm you may suffer without having made full disclosure to tenants of the extent of contaminants, if any, which may be in those basements.

In addition, the release waives any claim you may have for damage to property that is stored in the NTT lockers or the basements.  You should be aware that the Tenants Association has been consulting with its attorney regarding the possibility that tenants may have valid legal claims against management and NTT, as well as Quik Park, for losses incurred by tenants as a result of the flooding, notwithstanding any exculpatory language that may be contained in the storage and garage agreements.

Lastly, we are exploring with our attorney legal actions that may be taken to prevent management from requiring this release and from discarding your property on November 30 if you refuse to execute the release.

To see a copy of the storage/waiver release click here.