Residents close to construction site on First Ave. Loop fed up with delays

A view of the  future management office on September 2 (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

A view of the future management office on September 2 (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

By Sabina Mollot

Residents on Stuyvesant Town’s First Avenue Loop, who’ve been dealing with construction noise for months, are now asking if the new management office will ever be finished. Along with the noise, other gripes from residents have included dust and debris blowing into their windows, the walkway between several buaildings being off limits and the continued closure of the nearly Playground 8, which is also getting a facelift. Residents at 272 and 274 First Avenue also recently saw flooding in their storage rooms.

However, “The biggest concern at this point is the timetable,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick, who, in response to the complaints, wrote a letter to CWCapital Managing Director Andrew MacArthur to ask about the holdup. “It looks like there are a bunch of loose ends,” he said.

In the letter, Garodnick mentioned how he’d previously been told by CW that the construction on the office would be complete in August and that the playground would be done in May.

In mid-August, however, a newsletter from CompassRock emailed to tenants said there would be delays, with work on the office building expected to continue through the month of September. An explanation wasn’t given on the delay, but CompassRock said the final phase of construction had begun. The work included infrastructure being put into place and the space being wired. This week, a resident in a surrounding building said skylights were recently installed. In August, CompassRock said the next phase would be work on the green roof. As for the playground delay, management said the reason for that was “abandoned underground infrastructure encountered during excavation.”

But the end of the month deadline now seems unlikely since a photo, snapped by a resident in a building overlooking the construction shows that the project doesn’t look too close to being done.

Garodnick referred to the photo in his letter and also suggested that CW compensate tenants in the affected buildings with a one-month rent abatement for the inconvenience.Garodnick had brought up the possibility of a rent abatement to CW earlier in the year, though apparently, the owner didn’t agree. In the letter, Garodnick said he thought CW should “revisit the issue” due to the extended construction.

“Alternatively, (tenants) may be entitled to a rent reduction claim before the state housing agency,” he said. The letter was dated September 3 and Garodnick said so far there’s been no response. A spokesperson for CW also didn’t respond to T&V’s request for comment.

Still, the resident who’d taken the photo from his apartment on September 2, Michael Alcamo, said he appreciated Garodnick’s quick response to the issue. “All of us who face this construction site have experienced dust, dirt, exceptionally high cleaning costs and noxious construction smells,” he said. “We have not had access to our courtyard for nearly nine months.”

Additionally, said Alcamo, who heads an organization devoted to local tree planting, the work has led to the removal of healthy trees.

“CompassRock destroyed ten mature and healthy pin oak trees, in order to make room for its construction equipment.”

Another neighbor, who’s been having trouble walking, said a big inconvenience for a while had been how the gates put up on different sides of the Loop was confusing to the car service drivers she relies on, with them not knowing they were allowed in.

“I also had the use of benches taken from me for the summer outside Playground 8,” said the resident, who didn’t want her name used. “We were told construction would be completed months ago. The next set of benches are too far for me to walk to. It was a beautiful summer and I missed being out because I don’t feel ill enough to be in nor want to be in a wheelchair yet can’t walk far with or without the help of a person to hold on to.”

Another resident in an impacted building said that she’s been dealing with the noise by keeping the windows closed and the air conditioner on. She’s had to change the unit’s filter pretty frequently though due to all the dirt flying in despite being on a higher floor. The noise from the work was audible as she spoke on the phone.

But, she said, “It’s nowhere near as bad as it was over the summer. I’d say they’re in the last stages, but who knows what that means. They have a tendency to take a Pollyanna approach. You’ve still got a lot of uncovered dirt and a lot of banging and hammers going on.”

Truck flips on its side in Stuyvesant Town (UPDATED)

A truck fell on its side on a Stuyvesant Town construction site.

A truck fell on its side on a Stuyvesant Town construction site.

At around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, a truck at the construction site for the new management office flipped on one side. A resident who passed by said he heard the ground underneath wasn’t strong enough and that’s what caused it to tip. The resident (pictured), who didn’t want his name used, also said no one was hurt.
However, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, later said it was actually an imbalanced load that caused the truck to tip over.
“Earlier today, a ‘boom truck’ moving equipment into the construction area tipped over due to a misbalanced load,” he said. “There were no injuries, notable damage to the property or structural damage. All construction activities are continuing as scheduled. Before this truck’s boom was extended, construction personnel had cordoned off the surrounding area as a safety precaution.”
Another resident who passed through on Tuesday evening told T&V that there wasn’t pavement damage at the spot where the truck tipped over.

June5 Truck flipped residentNote: This post was updated to reflect information from CWCapital and a second passerby.

 

CWCapital: Stuy Town’s First Avenue Loop is being closed to make repairs beneath the road

CWCapital says the current closure of the First Avenue Loop wasn't planned as part of the management office construction. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

CWCapital says the current closure of the First Avenue Loop wasn’t planned as part of the management office construction. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Following the announcement on Thursday that the First Avenue Loop would be closed to traffic and parking for 4-6 weeks, starting Monday, nearby residents have been left wondering why there was barely any notice and of course, where they were supposed to park in the meantime.
Since last week, Council Member Dan Garodnick said his office has been on the receiving end of many complaints, in particular due to the minimal information offered in official notices that had been posted along the Loop Road.
“I have asked for a complete explanation for the community about the need for the project and why it was not disclosed earlier and for ways they can try and limit the time and the inconvenience,” he said on Monday morning.
He added that for some residents, the closure is “beyond an inconvenience. It really is a necessity for disabled parkers, for school bus pickups and for Access-A-Ride.” The lack of information, added Garodnick, “is extremely disrespectful to people who rely on it.”
The initial notice, which was also announced via an email from the ST-PCV Tenants Association, only explained that the closure was due to necessary work related to an electrical upgrade.
But by this afternoon, more details about the project were made available online by CWCapital.
In the notice, CWCapital said that the work is to replace and repair aged infrastructure and damaged power lines that run directly beneath the road. Though not currently used to power any buildings, they “will be necessary to provide adequate power to the new management office.”
As for why the work had to be done immediately, CW said the work was not planned as part of the construction of the management office, but deemed imminent after the special servicer consulted with Con Ed and other experts.
“We did not expect these power lines to be as badly damaged as they were,” CW said. “We worked closely with Con Ed and our engineers to identify alternate, less disruptive ways to address the issue. Ultimately, all the experts agree that this is the best and safest option.”
Meanwhile, until the work is completed, any drivers that attempt to park on the First Avenue Loop can expect to have their cars towed, management warned. The only exceptions for vehicles even being allowed in is for emergency vehicles, Access-A-Ride and “small school buses.” Large buses “may not be able to access the Loop Road during this work.” While the work is ongoing, public safety officers will be on the scene. The road will be closed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
One resident strolling by at 2:45 p.m. on Monday overheard an officer at the scene saying that cars could come in for dropoffs, but no through traffic or parking was allowed. At that time, there were four officers manning the First Avenue Loop entrance at 18th Street, who, he said, looked like police, not public safety officers.
In response to the new information, Garodnick said he would like to know, if the roads are only going to be closed during the day, why at least disabled residents  can’t park their cars overnight.
(We’ll update this post if we get a response from management on this one.)
Residents with questions have been directed by CWCapital to call (212) 253-3653 or email projectmgmt@pcvst.com.

Outrage over outage at Stuyvesant Town buildings

The power shutdowns took place at 272, 274, 276 and 278 First Avenue. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The power shutdowns took place at 272, 274, 276 and 278 First Avenue. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
As part of the construction of the new management office in Stuyvesant Town, four buildings on First Avenue had their power shut down for a day. The power shutdown for buildings 276 and 278 First Avenue on Thursday, April 3 and at 272 and 274 First Avenue on Tuesday, April 8 was announced ahead of time by CWCapital in a notice to affected residents. The reason, management explained, was to upgrade the electrical switchboard in the buildings. In the notice residents were warned to “prepare for the loss of power” by shutting off unnecessary appliances and keeping their refrigerators closed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The power shutdown also affected elevators, though emergency hall lights remained on and a Public Safety officer was stationed at the building sites.
As expected, the shutdown didn’t last beyond the scheduled time. However, the residents who were personally impacted by the work were naturally not happy about having to spend the day in the dark.
One resident, Beth Torin, told T&V, “The power shutdown at 276 was not only a major inconvenience but dangerous as our intercom was knocked out for Thursday and most of Friday.” She added that her cable, internet and phone “crashed” due to a power surge “with sparks burning out the cable box.”
Mark Thompson, who also lives in one of the buildings, said he thought the shutdown should have been handled differently. “While the work was necessary it was wrong for management to shut down electricity to tenants – many of them elderly – and force them to simply sit there without electricity for an entire day,” he said.
Thompson also wondered why management didn’t just rent a generator. “It would have been safer and more humane,” he said, adding, “It’s time to stop abusing people.”
That sentiment was shared by Council Member Dan Garodnick, who said he thought residents should be reimbursed for any food that went bad in their fridges as a result of the loss of power.
“It is not a good practice to shut off power in individual units for non-emergency work,” said Garodnick, “without offering people a way to recover things they will inevitably lose.”
The City Council member also said, in a letter to CWCapital Asset Management Vice President Andrew MacArthur, that he thought management should abate rents in those apartments for the day as well as compensate them for food.
“Please advise residents how they should document any losses, such as with photographs and/or receipts,” he wrote last Wednesday, a day before the scheduled work.
In response to the letter, a Brian Moriarty, a rep for CWCapital said management understood the concerns, but, he added, the work was necessary.
“We tried to mitigate the disruption by arranging for temporary power to keep elevators and common area lights operating,” Moriarty told T&V.
“We also provided a week’s notice so residents could plan accordingly. We were only contacted by a small handful of residents who had special needs and we worked with those residents to make appropriate accommodations.”

 

CW talks plans for new management office

The Avenue C management office will be converted into a children's facility. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The Avenue C management office will be converted into a children’s facility.
(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In anticipation of major construction work to be done on the First Avenue Loop for the new management office, reps for CWCapital quietly met with residents in buildings along the loop last week to discuss the planned project and their concerns.

The meeting was held on Monday, October 7 at the auditorium of the Simon Baruch Middle School and was also attended by leaders of the ST-PCV Tenants Association. TA Chair Susan Steinberg said buildings where tenants may be affected by the construction and noise were fliered, though there wasn’t any promotion beyond that. However, one resident, who lives at 274 First Avenue, where the new management office will be built in the current Oval Concierge space (274-276), said he didn’t recall seeing any notices.

Still, there didn’t appear to be shortage of interest from tenants, with at least 100 people in attendance, said Steinberg.

Leading the meeting was Andrew Cain, an asset manager for CWCapital and Claire Hackney, vice president of construction for the company, who answered the bulk of tenants’ questions.

CW’s plans have yet to be approved by the Department of Buildings and there were also no designs available for tenants to view.

“It would have been nice to see drawings, but unfortunately they didn’t have them with them,” said Steinberg.

As T&V reported in June, CWCapital has said with the new management office in the Oval Concierge space, Oval Concierge would go elsewhere on the First Avenue Loop, but it wasn’t said exactly where it would go at the meeting.

Currently, the only readily available ground commercial space is being used by the Community Center, and said, Steinberg, “I would be really shocked if they did away with the Community Center.”

What CW did say, recalled Steinberg, was that the company hopes work can be done throughout the winter “when there’s less activity and less people walking by.” How long the project will take is uncertain, but what does help is that no jackhammering is anticipated due to a lack of bedrock under the building.

“It’s mostly fill,” said Steinberg, “so there’ll be trucks removing earth and pretty much that side of the building (the First Avenue) side will be impassable,” she said. “People will have to use the loop side.”

Part of the project however includes upgrades for a nearby Playground 8, including the addition of a water feature. Steinberg added that management conceded some trees will have to come down in order to extend the back part of the building. (First Avenue is considered the back.) The extension will also include a green roof over a landscaped area.

In June, management said in a newsletter to tenants that the new management office would be designed with future disasters in mind so it could function as a command center, and that work was expected to be completed by spring of 2014. (There wasn’t a timetable given at the meeting.)

As for residents’ concerns, Steinberg recalled that there was some mention of a lack of access due to the fact that there would be a staff of 100 people doing this work and a staff-only entrance.

“So the character of the whole area is going to change,” said Steinberg. “It will be less residential in character and more commercial.”

However, some residents seemed relieved that management would once again be onsite and this time not all the way on Avenue C. “There are going to be tradeoffs,” said Steinberg. “So we’re not 100 percent overjoyed or annoyed.”

Steinberg said she didn’t believe there could be an MCI for this type of project.

Following the meeting, when asked for comment, a spokesperson for CW would only say there would be an announcement about the plans soon.

As for the old management office on Avenue C, CW has said part of the space will be converted into a facility for children. Talks are currently being held with potential vendors.

Following the space being flooded during Hurricane Sandy, Avenue C in Stuyvesant Town has since been declared a flood zone. CWCapital and management company CompassRock moved management operations to temporary spaces in the Oval for a few months and then moved offsite. Since then, as T&V has reported, residents have found that it’s gotten harder to reach management.