Sandy Nearly One Year Later: A Plea For Help From Knickerbocker Village

Almost a year after Hurricane Sandy, the residents of Knickerbocker Village are still waiting for critical repairs to be made at the historic affordable housing complex — repairs that could help protect the apartments on Monroe Street from another catastrophic flood.

Knickerbocker Village, November 2012.

Knickerbocker Village, November 2012.

Last November, we spent a lot of time at 1600-unit facility, which was without power and heat weeks after the rest of New York began to return to normal. Once media organizations and elected officials began to focus on the situation, power was finally restored and Knickerbocker Village’s management company promised to make sure the buildings were better protected from rushing flood waters in the future.  Unfortunately, it appears, those promises have been hard to keep.

Last night, we received a plea from the tenant association that read, in part:

Nearly 11 months ago, Knickerbocker Village suffered catastrophic damage both in terms of its tenants and its property.  Today, both the property and its occupants are even more exposed to a potential catastrophic event then they were a year ago.  In fact, and maybe worst of all, most residents are not aware of the risks they currently face… Any help that you may be able provide in terms of publically exposing our problem will be greatly appreciated by all of us.  Of particular note in the attached is the New York State Housing Commissioner’s and Governor Cuomo’s response to our request for help for tenants who cannot help themselves.  We find their response to be beyond callous and morally repugnant: They are not responding to the KVTA’s appeal to help our residents; they continue to myopically focus on the property. they clearly have absolutely no concern for the health and safety of our residents, particularly our most vulnerable residents who are incapable of helping themselves and/or who also lack the basic knowledge of how to handle emergency situations; their response obviously implies that Knickerbocker Village’s governance has moved from being dysfunctional to malignant.

See below for excerpts from the letters and documents that have been sent to various officials, beginning with a petition signed by more than 1500 tenants and delivered to Governor Cuomo:

Hurricane Sandy hit Knickerbocker Village particularly hard on October 29, 2012. On that fateful Monday night the surging tide from the East River completely flooded the basement, destroying the entire infrastructure of the building complex. Electricity, plumbing, heat and running water ceased to exist.  Now that almost a year has passed, the tenants of Knickerbocker Village are living here on a wing and a prayer… We pray that no new storms hit the New York City area which would cause a new flooding in our basement. Frankly speaking, because of the original damage caused by Sandy, the complex could not withstand the weight of any additional flood waters. There would be a possible danger that Knickerbocker Village, which has proudly stood for 80 years as a beacon of affordable housing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, might have to be condemned. As of the writing of this petition no remedies have been taken to protect Knickerbocker Village from any pending disasters, including the new hurricane season. No funding has been allocated to repair our damaged infrastructure. Even worse, nothing has been done to purchase flood barricades or watertight doors which would give us a fighting chance against the East River. We know that Washington has enacted into law funding for areas hit by Sandy and some of that money is sitting in New York City awaiting further distribution.  Governor Cuomo, our needs are immediate as we are in a Zone A mandatory evacuation zone. We ask you to use your authority to have funds allocated ON AN EMERGENCY BASIS to protect our homes from further unsustainable damage.

In an August 24 letter to the New York State Office of Homes & Community Renewal, which has oversight of Knickerbocker Village, the tenant leaders wrote:

 

The events surrounding last October 29th need not be repeated in detail. Before, during and after the storm both the property and its occupants were forsaken by those who were responsible for them. The results for both were catastrophic. Today, nearly 10 months later, both the property and its occupants are even more exposed to a catastrophic event then they were a year ago.  As a result, we appeal to you to provide the necessary resources and direction to the management of Knickerbocker Village so that our emergency requirements are accomplished on an immediate basis.

On September 3, the agency responded, writing:

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And finally, here’s part of a letter sent to Mayor Bloomberg late last month by local elected officials:

 

We are asking that the city allocate federal funds reserved for the recovery from the storm to help Knickerbocker make vital repairs and to prepare for the future. As a building complex located within the city’s 100-year flood plain, it continues to be vulnerable.  Knickerbocker Village is in dire need of funding and, as a low- and moderate-income building regulated by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, it lacks the resources to pay for many of the repairs on its own. Further, it has been unable to recover much of the costs incurred by the storm from its insurance providers.  We appreciate that the city has been working with us in our efforts to secure this funding and that representatives from Housing Recovery Operations, the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, along with the Department of Housing Preservation and the Housing Development Corporation have met or spoken with us to discuss Knickerbocker’s needs. As it has now been 10 months since the storm hit, we feel it is past time to make available this urgently needed funding.

We’ll be following up today with local officials as well as Knickerbocker Village management.