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Penn South Disputes Hoarders Are Primary Cause of Budget Overrun

Frank Lovece in Board Operations on November 1, 2013

Penn South, Chelsea, Manhattan

Penn South Hoarders
Nov. 1, 2013

Have You Hoard the News?

An Oct. 28 article by Mathew Katz in that said according to the co-op's management, "dozens of hoarders — long-term, often elderly residents who have piled their belongings from floor to ceiling and wall to wall — have delayed the work by a year and set Penn South back an extra $40 million for a social worker, movers and rising construction costs."

A story later that day by Kim Velsey in The New York Observer, citing DNAInfo, repeated Katz's claims.

"While it is true that one element of the cost increases is due to the need for additional personnel to help cooperators move furniture and personal belongings, at no time did we indicate that hoarders alone need this kind of assistance," Keany wrote. "Rather, we informed him that with a senior population of over 50%, we found it necessary to assign more personnel than anticipated to helping cooperators" pack and move belongings.

Katz's story quoted Keany as saying, "We had a much bigger problem than we could ever have imagined, specifically because of the hoarders."

Keany declined to speak with Habitat, citing work commitments. Katz referred a request for comment to his editor, Michael P. Ventura, who said in an e-mail, "We stand by our story."

The $8 Million Manpower

According to Katz's article, Penn South, "after realizing the extent of the hoarding problem … hired 31 new staffers at an additional cost of $8 million to help elderly residents move their possessions — or throw some of them away. The Penn South Program for Seniors also hired a full-time social worker dedicated to what Keany called 'the hoarding issue.' The social worker has reached out to about 180 suspected hoarders so far." 

Katz cited figures from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to note Penn South has begun 26 eviction proceedings against hoarders, with one having resulted in a certificate of eviction."

Keany in his memo said Katz had met with him, co-op board president Morris Benjamin and board treasurer Walter Mankoff, who "explained that there were multiple and complex reasons for the cost increases," including overages in plumbing work; the need for unforeseen additional security and maintenance personal; "hygienists to monitor the asbestos abatement"; and "a number of new items that had to be added to the project such as lobby restoration and ground-floor HVAC improvements."

Calling the DNAInfo and New York Observer articles "misleading" and "inaccurate," Keany's memo said Katz "was more interested in focusing on the sensationalistic hoarding issue than in accurately reporting the real explanation of the problems involved" in the large-scale project.

Penn South's annual shareholders meeting was scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 3.


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