It seemed like a hopeful sign on October 30, when city housing officials joined with local elected representatives at Knickerbocker Village to announce the decision to award $1.46 million in hurricane recovery money to the Lower East Side complex. Residents had waited more than a year after Superstorm Sandy for government help – and were at least somewhat relieved that some progress was finally being made. Three months later, however, the broad smiles have faded and the many expressions of gratitude are distant memories.
The funds, earmarked for the repair of Knickerbocker Village’s badly damaged elevators, have not yet been released. At that late fall photo op, RuthAnne Visnauskas, commissioner of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), said the money would be available in a matter of days. But this week, a spokesperson for HPD told The Lo-Down that the funds are being held in escrow because the city is waiting for Knickerbocker Village’s owners to provide standard information, including the names of the company’s principals and its other holdings. The spokesperson described the process as a kind of routine background check. The agency has been told that the information will be forthcoming by the end of this week.
The affordable complex, located on Cherry Street near the East River, is owned by Area Property Partners, a division of Ares Management. which is a multi-billion dollar asset management firm. Vincent Callagy, Knickerbocker’s general manager, said his company is “working to meet the terms of the grant and to continue the forward progress” toward rehabilitating the 1590-unit complex. He declined to offer further details about the situation.
The grant is the first installment in the state’s post-Sandy “Build it Back” program at Knickerbocker Village. Officials have estimated at least $5 million more will be required to protect the 1930’s-era buildings from future storms.
UPDATED 1/30: Last night local elected officials got the word that the funds have now been released. Knickerbocker Village management is now preparing to begin the elevator rehab project. When they’re ready, work requisitions will be submitted to the city for payment. According to the city, Knickerbocker’s owner is free to get the process moving as soon as it is ready.