Knickerbocker Village Receives Hurricane Money; $5 Million More Needed For Storm-Proofing

Last night we reported that Knickerbocker Village, the affordable housing complex near the Manhattan Bridge, had been awarded $1.46 million in federal hurricane recovery funds.  More details were released a short time ago at a news conference on the Lower East Side.

Tenant leader Bob Wilson thanks city, elected officials for financial assistance at Knickerbocker Village.

Officials came to Knickerbocker Village this morning to announce the first round of funding.

As we reported October 1, residents had become extremely frustrated with the lumbering federal bureaucracy as the one year anniversary of Sandy approached.  When the super storm hit, waters from the East River swamped Knickerbocker Village’s mechanical systems.  Most of the 1590 apartments in the complex were without heat and electricity for 17 days.

Finally today, officials announced that Knickerbocker and two facilities in the Rockaways would be the first recipients of the “NYC Build It Back” multi-family repair program.  The initial phase of the repair effort will allow the property, which opened in 1934, to restore and upgrade its 12 elevator banks, which were badly damaged by flooding.  According to a press release from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), engineers are now “working to establish a flood prevention and resiliency plan which will form the basis of Phase II rehabilitation.”  That second phase is expected to include replacement of the whole electrical and heating system and will cost more than $5 million. The news release indicated the “Build It Back” program would fund “a portion” of those upgrades.

Today’s media event was led by HPD Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas and Deputy Mayor Cas Halloway. They were joined by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Council member Margaret Chin, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.  Silver said it had been a top priority for him the past several months advocating for recovery money. He thanked the mayor for allocating the funds and urged officials to find a way to get residents rent rebates they were promised by the property manager last year.  “We will continue to push for that,” he said.   Bob Wilson, a longtime tenant leader, thanked the neighborhood’s political establishment for their help and added, “I want to thank the residents for enduring what they have had to endure with grace.”

Stuart Koenig, AREA Property Partners.

Stuart Koenig, AREA Property Partners.

Stuart Koenig, an executive with Knickerbocker Village’s owner (AREA Property Partners), said his firm ‘recognized the significant inconveniences” tenants have been forced to deal with in the past year.  “I assure you that we will work diligently to complete the repairs” and to do what’s necessary to protect the complex from future storms, he said.

Hurricane victims statewide have complained that federal money has been slow to reach them, but officials said the money would begin flowing more quickly now.  The Phase 1 funding at Knickerbocker should be available in a day or two, Visnauskas said.  Today tenants at the complex expressed relief that some help is on the way, but they noted that none of the money in the first round will address Knickerbocker Village’s vulnerability to East River flood waters.  There’s a plan to construct retaining walls along Cherry Street, but as of now that project remains in limbo.