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After a Disaster, Go With a Pro You Can Trust

Bendix Anderson in Bricks & Bucks on June 19, 2019

Rockaway Beach, Queens

Disaster Demo
June 19, 2019

When Hurricane Sandy roared into New York, 35 of the 68 townhouse units at the Villas at Oceanside condominium complex on Long Island were flooded. Water warped cabinets and countertops, soaked into the walls and beams of the first-floor units. Water also destroyed the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, which were at ground level. Many residents lost all their possessions. But the condominium’s ordeal was just beginning. 

“Every day that goes by the mold is spreading,” says Jill Puma, who was a board member at a condominium community in nearby Rockaway, Queens, that was also flooded by the storm. 

To prevent mold from spreading, fast action is required by boards and their management companies. At the Villas at Oceanside, the board hired SERVPRO Restoration Services, a cleanup company recommended by their insurance carrier. “They cleaned up the water damage and handled demolition in all the units – they removed cabinets, countertops, appliances, and flooring,” says Pam DeLorme, managing partner at Delkap Management, which manages the condominium. She made sure the clean-up company arrived the day after the storm because she understands that, in the aftermath of such a disaster, time is of the essence. 

Boards usually need to make such special arrangements to dispose of debris from fires and floods because residents and contractors cannot leave piles of waterlogged refuse on the curb for a conventional garbage truck to pick up. “Debris removal has to be done by a contractor of a certain level,” says Theresa Racht, an attorney who has helped several properties deal with damage from fire and water. 

“You want to go to people who you have worked with and that you trust and who you are going to have a relationship for many years to come,” says Alvin Wasserman, director of asset management at Fairfield Properties. He has helped two communities deal with the damage from major fires. In both cases, the two-story apartment buildings suffered extensive damage, both from the fires and the water that extinguished them. 

“Parts of the building had collapsed,” Wasserman says. “Instead of having things in place, you have a pile of debris. You’re going have a debris soup.” 

In addition to concerns that mold will spread, there is the possibility that the building was constructed with hazardous materials. Roofing tiles and insulation may contain asbestos. Lead paint is often exposed or turns into a toxic ash. Boards must hire qualified companies to remove debris and a licensed engineer to manage the project, according to Wasserman. 

“It is the responsibility of the restoration company to determine if there is hazardous waste and remove it,” Wasserman says. Which is why it’s vital for boards to hire a company their manager has worked with and can trust.

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