Concern Grows For Elderly at Seward Park Co-op

A charging station in the community room at the Seward Park Co-op, much like the one in the East River Co-op. Photo by
A charging station was set up in the community room at the Seward Park Co-op.

As the power outage on the Lower East Side stretches into a fourth day, there’s mounting frustration and concern, especially regarding the plight of the neighborhood’s large elderly population.  In the last 48 hours we’ve received numerous emails and tweets from residents of the Grand Street cooperatives expressing outrage that more is not being done to make sure seniors, trapped in their apartments, have food and water.  As mentioned earlier this morning,  a group will be meeting at the Seward Park Co-op this morning with the intention of walking up to the high floors of the 1700-apartment complex to check on elderly residents.

Yesterday we received an email from Seward Park resident Evan Silver that read, in part:

I am writing to you in a desperate attempt to help the countless seniors trapped in their apartments in the Seward Park complex without electric, heat and running water. Some 20 flights up in buildings where elevator and electric is not running.  I just left my building today to go to a friends in Brooklyn and on my way down the pitch black stairway I heard the cries for help from a women in her mid 80’s. She had run out of water and had no phone to call for help. She also needed the assistance of a walker so there was nowhere for her to go – her neighbors already left. We used or cells which have had spotty service to call her family and I ran out to grab a car for her after taking her down the 3 flights.  She was terrified and said NOBODY has been knocking on the doors seeing if anyone needed help. The management just sent out an email saying anyone who needs help to leave a note on their door or call their office. But nobody in the building can get the email since there is no electric! I can only imagine all the people trapped in their apartments with no way of calling for help or any idea of what’s going on… I spoke with security who said they had their hands tied. I’ve been trying to call management but the number is busy 24/7 or not working. The need to do a door to door search immediately as we go on the 3rd night with no electric.

Last night, we spoke with Frank Durant, the general manager of the Seward Park Co-op about what’s being done to cope with the difficult situation.  In the hours before Lower Manhattan lost electrical power, there was quite a bit of communication with residents (via email and flyers left at each door).  Communication was obviously  a lot more difficult once the power went out. Durant said his staff and members of the co-op board have been visiting as many apartments as possible.  Yesterday, with the help of the Educational Alliance NORC (Natural Occurring Retirement Community), fresh fruit and water were delivered to many seniors.  The Fine Fare grocery store donated food to Seward Park. A 96-year old woman was rescued from her apartment yesterday and taken to a shelter.

Today, Durant said, there will be a wider food disbursement effort at 403 Grand Street, the old Grand Spa location, and staff will continue delivering provisions to people who can’t make it down the darkened stairwells.  He said the mayor’s office had arranged for truck loads of food to be delivered to the co-op.  The morning distribution just ended.  More food will be passed out from 4-6 p.m.

Durant indicated he’s working on restoring water service possibly before Con Ed  turns the power back on.  A temporary boiler is being installed; water could start flowing by tomorrow.  Earlier this week, a phone charging station was set up in a ground floor community room at Seward Park. There were around 25 people utilizing this service yesterday afternoon when we visited. A small generator is stationed outside the room and is also powering the community center’s lights.

Raven Dolling – with companion in the Seward Park community room.


Some residents were in pretty good spirits. Raven Dolling, 67, has lived in the co-op since she was a child.  Her apartment is on the 20th floor, but she’s staying with friends who have an apartment on the second floor of the four-building complex east of Essex Street. Dolling said she had no idea the community room had a generator until she took her dog for a walk earlier this week and stumbled upon the makeshift setup.   She told us there had been little communication from management since the blackout.  Another longtime resident, who gave her name as Lebusch, said she was very prepared for Hurricane Sandy and had even filled her bathtub with water, but unfortunately,  it had drained out. A few residents in the community room told us they experienced similar mishaps.

Linda Jones, who lives on the 20th floor, said she is frustrated that “management hadn’t been seen or heard from” since the power went out.  She noted that staff obviously had been on each floor, since notices were posted not to use trash chutes.  Durant said the co-op is doing the best it can under trying circumstances.  We have reached out to Wei Li Tjong, Seward Park’s board president and expect to talk with him today. We’ll update this story following that conversation.

As indicated earlier, there have also been complaints from the residents of the other Grand Street co-ops – East River, Hillman and Amalgamated.  Today we’ll be seeking more information from the management of those complexes about their efforts.

UPDATE 10:59 p.m. The Seward Park Co-op just updated residents via email. See an edited version below:

WATER – …The coop has been working feverishly to obtain and install a temporary boiler powerful enough to restore water service to the coop. A work plan is in place to have water back by tomorrow. This should help us greatly as we weather this storm.

HEAT – …we have just been informed that the restoration of Con Ed steam heat is imminent…

MEDICAL NEEDS – SPHC continues its intensive outreach and support effort for those with medical needs, combining our work with UJC, NORC, the Mayor’s Office, CERT and the NYPD’s 7th Precinct Community Council, among others, in doing so. We have many volunteers; we can use more…

FOOD – The City of New York will be delivering a great deal of food for distribution, on this, the fourth day of the blackout…

S.O.S – If you live on such a high floor that you have been unable to get to the Ground Floor during this crisis, please leave a note on your door that you would for like us to visit you. If your food is supply is low, please let us know that.