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Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath: Building Managers' Notes from the Field

Tom Soter in Board Operations on November 6, 2012

Birchwood on the Green, Villas at Oceanside, Bell Beach

Nov. 6, 2012

Of the 68 townhouse units at the Villas at Oceanside condominium complex, 35 were flooded, reported Pam DeLorme, the principal at Delkap Management, the manager of the Long Island property. “All the first-floor people were affected,” she said. At another Delkap property, a 75-unit multifamily building on Bell Beach in Rockaway Beach, Queens, the boiler room, the first-floor lobby, the garage and the elevator pit were all flooded. Neither property has electricity.

While the residents toughed it out, DeLorme made sure a clean-up company arrived the day after the storm. “They’re working on that now and the public adjuster will be in today to determine the needed repairs,” she said.

In Manhattan, Dan Wurtzel, president of Cooper Square Realty, said that many of the firm’s buildings lost power — and that meant they also lost heat and elevator service. The issue, he said, “was how are people going to live there, especially the elderly or people who are handicapped and are unable to leave their apartment or seek alternative housing.”

Hotels Gouging and Profiteering

Seeking alternative housing is “very difficult,” he noted, because “hotels have no power, and ones that had power were booked or were charging $700 a night for a room, and that cut off a great deal of potential alternative housing. And you couldn’t go anywhere because the trains were down, bridges were closed, and tunnels were closed.”

Hotels that had power

were booked or charging

$700 a night for a room.

He added: “We have people who are riding this out in their apartments because they have no place else to go. Nobody prepared a contingency plan. No one felt it was going to be that destructive. We’ve had bad storms in the past, but none that were catastrophic. This was catastrophic.”’

Cooper Square tried to ease conditions for residents, bringing in food and bottled water, as well as some type of lighting glow sticks for residents. Staff also performed periodic checks on the elderly and/or the disabled. Some building workers couldn’t make it in to their buildings; those who could worked double shifts.

Portable generators were also brought in to run pumping equipment. “The first order of business was to get the water out of the building, and we needed massive pumps to pump that stuff out,” Wurtzel said.

Insurance Obstacles

One concern in all these cases was insurance. Michael Spain, president of the Spain Agency, said that making a claim would require some letter-writing and research by property managers and/or shareholders.

Essentially, before a claim is even considered, the carrier will have to be presented with a statement from Con Edison (or the building’s energy supplier) confirming that the utility’s relay station went down. Then the co-op or condo will have to show how that caused a dollar loss to the property. “For example," says Spain, "they have to show they were forced to rent portable generators, or that people stopped paying [maintenance], or that the commercial tenant stopped paying rent. They have to show there was direct out-of-pocket loss because of the utility’s failure to provide electricity. The insurance carrier is not just going to start writing checks without that.”

And another storm is predicted for Wednesday.

 

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