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Village People: How the West Village Houses Co-op Recovered from Sandy

West Village Houses, Lower Manhattan, Manhattan

West Village Houses photo by AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust
March 19, 2013

This was a major catastrophe. How did your company respond?

CIRULLI  We brought down our director of operations, and we brought down a construction manager. We had three more people on top of the two that are normally stationed down there. So we increased our presence by at least 125 to 130 percent. Most of our people were working, for at least the first six to seven weeks [after the storm], 12-hour days, 13- to 14-hour days, seven days a week, until I got the remedial company to get in there and rip out the sheetrock


Time was of the essence — the possibility of mold was a substantial concern, and we were afraid if we didn't address it, the mold would grow and expand to the upper floors. After you have a flood of this nature, if it isn't under control right away you are going to have a ton of odors, sickening odors. The super was excellent in putting heaters and air purifiers into the apartments so we minimized the dust, we minimized the air pollution, we minimized the mold smell.

We also had hired a public [insurance] adjuster to come in to start that process.

We also brought in extra security because all of a sudden we found [some] very energetic people [were taking] stuff that people left outside the apartments that they might otherwise have kept, like metal furniture. They were these metal scavengers trying to pick up stuff.

It was a war zone, it was like some of the stuff I saw many years ago in my service in the army. It was a disaster, a monumental disaster.

Did your experience as a colonel in the military help?

CIRULLI  Absolutely, absolutely because no one was prepared for this. This was like a bomb hitting the property. There is no preparation for a bomb. I have been in real estate management for 35 years, and when I first saw this, I said, "My God, this is overpowering — how do we get these people home? How do we get insurance adjustors? How do we get this kick-started? Where do we go? Where do you go?" This wasn't a Joe Schmo construction thing to get the remedial work, this was, you know, so —

BOZART And this was occurring at a time when the system was overwhelmed. You know, insurance companies that have a hundred claims a day suddenly had 20,000 claims and that just was impossible to handle. So, it required great expertise, patience, and good relations to get these people to come and pay attention to you, because they were so overwhelmed. This is so overwhelming today, it hasn't cleared yet.

And it's true of all of the agencies and insurance companies and other parties that are involved in this: contractors are overwhelmed, trying to get bids from people, trying to get insurance adjustors get things settled. Everything is backlogged because the entire system is overwhelmed by this very, very incredible disaster.


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Photo: AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust

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