Stuy Town woman gets partial rent abatement for construction noise

The new Stuyvesant Town management office, now complete, was a source of torment to one woman at 276 First Avenue, who lived directly above the months-long construction. (Pictured) Workers on the roof in April as seen from 272 First Avenue

The new Stuyvesant Town management office, now complete, was a source of torment to one woman at 276 First Avenue, who lived directly above the months-long construction. (Pictured) Workers on the roof in April as seen from 272 First Avenue

By Sabina Mollot

When construction was underway on Stuyvesant Town’s new management office, for residents in the building housing it and the others closest to it, this of course meant months of constant noise and a lack of access to the walkway and playground between the buildings. Afterwards, CWCapital provided the impacted residents with $200 gift cards to local establishments as a way of thanking them for their patience.

But for one resident, the daily jackhammering and other noise that would start as early as 7:30 a.m. as well as the debris that would fly into her windows was so unbearable that she started withholding rent.

Naturally, she ended up getting taken to court, where a judge decided that she was in fact entitled to a partial abatement.

The resident, Caryn Chow, lives on the second floor of 276 First Avenue, which was so close to the construction that when it was ongoing, she said she could feel the walls vibrate. Considering that she’s a happiness coach and communication strategist who works from home, this meant making calls or doing other work-related tasks for long was impossible. Her daily routine of meditation was also of course disrupted.

“They’d start as early as 7:30 and the building is shaking,” said Chow, in a recent interview with Town & Village. “They said, ‘We’re in compliance,’ and they did prove that,” she added, of when she called management to complain. But, meanwhile, for her, the noise had become her new alarm clock, and an effective one at that. “They ousted me out of my apartment. I’m used to hearing sirens, but this was making everything shake and it was like being up against your ear.”

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CW sues insurer over Sandy claims

 

Workers in the repair and cleanup effort in Peter Cooper Village in November, 2012

Workers in the repair and cleanup effort in Peter Cooper Village in November, 2012

 

By Sabina Mollot
It was 28 months ago when the wrath of Hurricane Sandy caused the East River to rise 14 feet and barrel its way into Manhattan’s East Side. In Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the gushing water caused unprecedented damage, destroying the management office and flooding basements and garages. But according to CWCapital, its insurance company has still not paid over a third of what the owner believes is owed for the damage.
The suit, filed last Thursday, said Lexington Insurance Co. has only paid $60 million of the repair costs and estimated losses that the owner has claimed were actually over $95 million. Adding insult to injury, the insurance company is also trying to bring the entire amount, including what has already been paid, to appraisal.

In its complaint, which is over 100 pages long, CW said the insurer, despite having its agents examine the damage on site, has “capped what it was willing to pay, regardless of the costs of repair.” Additionally, “Lexington simply ignored PCV/ST’s pleas for payment while at the same time, acknowledging that they were covered.”

The suit, which was first reported by Law360, noted how employees on the property immediately started work on the repairs to minimize the inconvenience to residents, which CW said served to minimize business interruption losses.
CW had hoped to get the insurer to agree on a $100 million settlement but Lexington and agents for Lexington from an insurance industry adjuster called Vericlaim “rebuffed those efforts.”

14th Street between Avenues B and C during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (Photographer unknown)

East River water buried cars outside of Stuyvesant Town when Hurricane Sandy hit. (Photographer unknown)

CW said it has since refined its estimate to reflect newer information and now believes the actual costs from repairs and losses amount to $95,296,483. The owner said the insurer has been provided with access to the property’s employees as well as the related documentation. “PCV/ST has responded to reasonable, and many unreasonable requests for information by Lexington and Vericlaim,” CW wrote.

CW also wrote that the refusal to pay the full estimate is the result of an “incomplete” inspection that was conducted in 2013 by an insurance industry construction consultant called Wakelee Associates. “Based largely on Wakelee’s results,” Lexington informed CW that the loss and damage amounted to about $60 million. Close to $53 million of that has actually been paid out, which, with the $7,500,000 deductible, reflects Lexington’s $60 million estimate.

CW also said some of its costs have been challenged in cases where equipment had to be replaced rather than just repaired. CW defended its actions though, citing in one example the property’s heat controls. The system had controllers that were destroyed in many buildings when Sandy hit. A different type of system was then installed since the original one was no longer commercially available.

CW gave some other examples of not receiving all it believes the property was owed, including in work relating to replacement of all the buildings’ cast iron drain pipes, which had all gotten clogged with water and debris. When dozens of onsite plumbers couldn’t unclog them, contractors had to be hired to saw through concrete basement floors, which meant additional costs to replace floors, drywall, tile and other property. A year later, Wakelee “took the position they could have been unclogged,” said CW, adding that there were no objections when the work was being done. CW said Lexington also accused the owner of having a “premeditated plan” to replace them.

Workers clean out an Avenue C garage in November, 2012 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Workers clean out an Avenue C garage in November, 2012 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The document went on to list other things CW was stuck footing all or some of the bill for such as replacement of steel window and door frames that had been exposed to river water and had corroded, work at the old management office, now converted into apartments (specifically installation of equipment and furniture), damaged fire mains, asbestos removal from buildings, reimbursement for employees’ cleanup/repair work (since they were diverted from their regular duties to do it) and income loss from laundry rooms, garages and the fitness center.
CW is also attempting to block Lexington from pursuing appraisal.

A spokesperson for CWCapital said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation, and a spokesperson for Lexington didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Town & Village community getting geared up for annual holiday toy drive

Some of the donated toys from a previous T&V drive

Some of the donated toys from a previous T&V driveBy Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

With the holiday season around the corner, Town & Village is asking readers and community residents to help spread cheer by participating in our annual holiday toy drive.

This year, the drive will deliver gifts to Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center. Toys will then be distributed to children of patients of the hospital’s outpatient clinic programas as well as to children who’ll be spending their holidays in hospital rooms while undergoing medical treatment.

Gifts appropriate for children of all ages are welcome with items for older kids (13 and 14-year-olds) being the highest need. Due to hospital policy, the donated items must be new. Partnering with T&V on the drive this year by providing convenient dropoff points are CWCapital/CompassRock, the management of Waterside Plaza and M&T Bank.

Through December 12, toys may be left at:
• The new Stuyvesant Town management office at 276 First Avenue
• M&T Bank at 397 First Avenue near 23rd Street
• Waterside Management Office, 30 Waterside Plaza
• Waterside Swim & Health Club, 35 Waterside Plaza
• Waterside Community Center, 40 Waterside Plaza, Level A
• The Town & Village office at 20 West 22nd Street, 14th floor.
Bonnie Robbins, PhD, co-ordinator at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, said gifts from drives have made a world of a difference to the children the hospital serves. In many cases, their families would not be able to provide them with any presents .

Local resident cries foul as tree is axed on East 20th street

A tree near 440 East 20th Street was cut down.

A tree near 440 East 20th Street was cut down.

By Sabina Mollot
Last Tuesday afternoon, a Stuyvesant Town resident walking past 440 and 430 East 20th Street said she noticed that a very tall, mature tree was in the midst of being cut down.
The resident, who asked that her name not be published, told Town & Village she’d asked a nearby Public Safety officer what was going on and was initially told that the tree was just being trimmed for safety reasons.
She was also told it had to do with the tree being in the way of a ramp for disabled residents that was going to
be built alongside the building.
The building already has a ramp but according to the officer, that one wasn’t up to code.

The stump of the tree was later removed as well.

The stump of the tree was later removed as well.

The resident added that after she stuck around a while, it became clear that the tree was actually being cut down, so she headed over to the new management office to make a complaint about what seemed like unnecessary arborcide as well as the lack of notice that a tree would be coming down.
That’s when she said she was told by a property manager that the tree was actually diseased.
She didn’t get a response as to the lack of notice though other than management tends to get overwhelmed due to all the work going on at the property at any given time.
After returning later in the day to the spot where the tree had been, the stump that had been there briefly after it was chopped was also gone.
A spokesperson for CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment on the tree.

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.

 

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.”

 

TA meeting to focus on management office construction

Rendering of the new management office as seen in 276 First Avenue (Photo by Kent Howard)

Rendering of the new management office as seen in 276 First Avenue (Photo by Kent Howard)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuy Town Tenants Association is set to host a meeting to discuss the construction of a new management office as concern over disruption caused by the project continues to rise.

The TA is primarily concerned about quality-of-life issues, including the removal of walkways and benches, loss of greenery and possible noise.The original management office on Avenue C was swept away by Hurricane Sandy . There are plans to turn what’s left into a children’s facility.

The new management office will border 272, 274, 276 and 278 First Avenue and while CW Capital met with residents to discuss the project last October, there has been little communication since then. Local elected officials — City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Brad Hoylman — sent a letter to CW Capital vice president Andrew MacArthur last Friday asking for transparency about the project.

The Department of Buildings is to conduct an audit of the site in order to ensure compliance with the Building Code and Zoning Resolutions.

The letter from the elected officials was in response to a meeting held by tenants of 276 First Avenue that was organized by building resident and former Community Board 6 chair, Mark Thompson.

“Seniors especially are really stressed out because now the park is gone,” he said. “(Stuyvesant Town) is being marketed as this green oasis in the city and they’re cutting all the trees down.”

Kent Howard, of 276 First Avenue, told T&V that he started the website StuyTownBigDig.com to keep track of what they see going on.

“It’s hard to tell at this point but it looks a lot larger than I originally anticipated,” Howard said.

“Tenants are concerned,” Thompson added. “That’s the bottom line.”

The TA meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 18 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at PS 40, 320 East 20th Street.

Doors will open at 5:45 p.m. Representatives from CW Capital and CompassRock will be there, in addition to local elected officials Senator Hoylman, Assemblymember Kavanagh and City Councilmember Garodnick.

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.

Residents having a tougher time reaching management

The Avenue C management office, damaged by Sandy, is still boarded up. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

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.”