The Avenue C management office, damaged by Sandy, is still boarded up.
(Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Where oh where is management?
That seems to be the question posed by residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village following CWCapital’s moving of the management office off the property last spring.
Since then, the feeling from many tenants is that management has been harder to get a hold of when they have questions or complaints or require some sort of follow-up to said questions or complaints.
This week, Susan Steinberg, the chair of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, told Town & Village “absolutely, unquestionably” there’s been a rise in this sentiment and the association would know because it’s been getting near daily complaints that reaching management has become a lot more difficult. After Hurricane Sandy destroyed the management office on Avenue C close to a year ago, for several months, there were the temporary offices opened at the amenity spaces. But then, management moved offsite (word is to CW’s midtown office) and residents were given phone numbers to call instead. In June, it was announced that management would be back eventually at 274-276 First Avenue (currently the Oval Concierge space) and at this time, some redevelopment plans for the building to accommodate the offices are pending with the city.
As of this week, Steinberg said the TA has been accumulating complaints from tenants who’ve said they have problems that have been made worse due to a lack of response from management.
Below are a few examples:
1) A resident who saw an unexpected $1,000 balance on a rent bill has been trying to get an explanation from the accounting department via email and calling, but has so far not gotten a response.
2) One former resident who recently moved out of the city has been asking CWCapital to confirm with his new landlord that he was a tenant in good standing. However, his calls have not been responded to nor have his new landlord’s. “He’s concerned he’s going to be without a home in a new city,” said Steinberg.
3) A new tenant who signed a lease in mid-September has still not gotten a copy of a lease and when he went to the leasing office, was told that his agent was on leave and no one else could help him.
4) One resident had his September rent payment returned along with a checklist of reasons why the payment might not have been accepted. However, none of the reasons on the list were checked off. The tenant has called the legal department and left numerous messages that have not been returned.
That resident, Stephen Solomita, told T&V he’s in the SCRIE program, so a portion of his rent has been getting paid by that program. Meanwhile, he’s only supposed to be billed for his portion, rather than the full amount though that amount is what’s been showing up on his rent bill.
“I called seven times in five days after getting the check back and nobody ever returns a call,” Solomita said. “You know what’s going to happen,” he added. “You’re going to get an eviction notice.”
He’d been directed by management to call a rent arrears hotline, “which doesn’t appear to be very hot to me,” he noted. “But ever since they went offsite, you can’t talk to a person and they don’t really respond.”
Another resident, Paul Lee of Peter Cooper, said he’s been having difficulties communicating with management since July when the amount of his rent was lowered — or so he thought — as a result of the “Roberts” settlement. There were a number of calculations on his invoice that he’d found confusing and had attempted to reach management for an explanation but wasn’t able to, he said. He paid the lowered amount on the invoice though and soon received a letter from the legal department, excusing the one-time lateness in payment but warning him he’d be paying a late fee next time. He was eventually able to reach someone, and said he was told he shouldn’t get another legal notice, though he still didn’t get an explanation about the different rent amount. Then in September after continuing to pay the lower amount that would appear on the invoice, Lee said he was did end up getting socked with a late fee. He admitted his rent was sent in late but said it was not by a full ten days, which is when the fees apply. After playing phone tag to try and dispute it, though he noted, “I’ve been doing most of the tagging,” Lee simply paid the fee, hoping the situation would get resolved eventually.
Having been a tenant since 2009, Lee said he feels the communication system has gotten worse since then.
“I understand it’s not easy for a landlord when half of your property is flooded by the East River, but we pay for certain amenities,” he said.
Steinberg, meanwhile, called the lack of onsite access to management “a growing frustration.
“While it is not a reduction in service in the classic HCR sense, it certainly is a diminution of what should be considered appropriate and timely management response to tenant inquiries,” she said. “Tenants have as much right to expect a responsible management as management has to expect responsible tenants. In some instances, particularly where the payment of late fees or rent demands are concerned, the lack of response from management starts to look, feel and smell like harassment.”
In response to the concerns, a rep for CWCapital did not respond to a question about the issue of residents having a harder time reaching management, and said the company won’t comment on correspondence from individual residents. However, as for the return of the management office, the spokesperson, Brian Moriarty, said, “We are planning to bring the full management office back to the property and are working on those plans. As soon as they are finalized we will share them with the community.”
In June, in one of management company CompassRock’s community newsletters, it was announced that management would eventually move to the Oval Concierge space, though there would need to be construction in the basement first to create more room. Oval Concierge would be moved elsewhere on the First Avenue Loop though it wasn’t said where exactly. Public safety would be moved to 2 Stuyvesant Oval. According to the newsletter, the new management office would be designed with future disasters in mind so it could function as a command center, and work was expected to be completed by spring of 2014.
Moriarty didn’t respond to say if those plans were still on track, but did have some news about the Avenue C office.
“As for the old management office space, we will be converting part of that space into a new facility for children,” he said. “We are currently speaking to several potential vendors for the space and hope to be able to announce an agreement soon.”