Bill Morris in Building Operations on January 24, 2019
Wednesday, January 23 was a long day for John Devall, a property manager with Orsid Realty. It began at 5:45 a.m., when he received a text from Semir Nikovic, the super at the Vermeer, the 354-unit co-op on Seventh Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets that Devall manages. The news was not good. A water main had burst beneath Seventh Avenue, directly in front of the building. John Devall’s long day had begun.
Within an hour he had notified building residents that there would be no elevator service, heat or hot water until crews repaired the water main. There was water in the rooftop tank, but it was likely to last only a few hours. Residents were advised not to flush toilets or turn on faucets, and to keep their windows closed. The rooftop water tank was empty by 9 a.m.
There was a ray of good news amid the gloom. The co-op had just redone its sidewalks, and thanks to proper pitching and new waterproofing, the damage was limited. “Our basement and sub-basement were flooded,” Devall said, “but not one drop of water came into the lobby.”
As crews worked throughout the day, Devall kept sending updates to residents. “You give people as much information in real time as possible,” he said. “Some people don’t want to be bombarded, but the residents in this building want to be fully informed.”
As darkness descended, Devall was able to report that the building’s heat, provided by Con Ed steam, would likely be restored by midnight, along with running water. Though the ordeal was far from over, Devall said the trying day had served to reinforce a valuable lesson for all property managers. “You have to be constantly communicating with people,” he said. “People just want information. It’s all about communication, communication, communication.”
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