Sandy Aftermath: Report from the Rockaways

What’s left of the Rockaways boardwalk.

Yesterday, members of The Lo-Down team spent the day delivering food and supplies donated to our pet relief effort this weekend. Accompanied by folks from Instinct Dog Behavior & Training and backed by support from Ruff Club and Bayou Rescue, five volunteers took two large carloads of dog and cat food, kitty litter, treats and toys to companion animals across the Rockaways peninsula, where there is still no power and little hope of most stores reopening before the year’s end.

While Hurricane Sandy is quickly receding into the rearview mirror for many New York City residents, those whose towns were surrounded by water on all sides when the storm hit two weeks ago still have no power, heat or water at home — and thousands have no homes at all. They spend hours standing in line at relief centers for everything from baby formula and hot soup to feed their children to mops and shovels to attack the muck that coats every square inch of ground level, indoors and out.

Knickerbocker Village Update: Rent Strike Proposed

Knickerbocker Village residents held a rally on Cherry Street yesterday.

Here’s the latest on the situation at Knickerbocker Village, the 1590-unit apartment complex on Monroe Street that remains mostly without power and heat this morning.   Yesterday, exasperated residents gathered on the basketball courts across from the historic affordable housing buildings to begin laying the groundwork for a potential rent strike and/or class action lawsuit (more on that in a moment).

  • Building management reported last night that two generators are in the process of being connected to Knickerbocker Village’s “internal grid,” a slow process which is being conducted with “safety (being) the primary concern.”  A third generator is expected to be delivered today.  According to management, power was restored to around 250 apartments last night. The plan was to light “quadrants” of the buildings in phases.
  • In the same update, managers indicated the boilers are being taken apart and rebuilt.  It’s also a very slow process, and could take some time.  As we reported Friday, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development offered to have its contractor replace the boilers.  It’s unclear whether Knickerbocker Village is still entertaining the offer.
  • Meanwhile efforts to provide food and other assistance to residents have been stepped up. Last night,  the Red Cross served around 1600 meals at the Hamilton Madison House warming center at 50 Madison Street.   State Sen. Daniel Squadron says he arranged for a 24-hour heated FEMA comfort tent, now set up on a playground on Cherry Street.  It’s supposed to be operational today. Knickerbocker Village management reports it knocked on most doors last night, checking on residents.  They’re also getting ready to provide space heaters (presumably to those apartments that have regained electrical power).

Statement Released by Knickerbocker Village

Tonight Knickerbocker Village, Inc. has emailed the following statement:

The management of Knickerbocker Village has been working around the clock to care for our residents and restore building services in the wake of this unprecedented storm. We have overcome enormous challenges, only to face multiple setbacks due to the configuration and age of Knickerbocker Village and its infrastructure, as well as limited supply of resources in the New York area. Regardless of obstacles, we have not, and will not, spare any expense or resource to get the buildings and their systems back to normal, and our residents safe and comfortable in their homes.

Knickerbocker Village Electrical Power Could Be Restored This Week

Knickerbocker Village.

It looks like there might soon be relief for the residents of Knickerbocker Village, most of whom have been without electricity and heat in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  In the past couple of days, elected officials and the heads of two non-profit organizations have been working intensively with the city and building management to accelerate the repair timetable. Now it looks like some electrical service could be restored over the weekend, with full restoration to all 12 buildings sometime next week.

Knickerbocker Village’s owner, AREA Property Partners, is replacing electrical components in several equipment rooms. One room has already been repaired, which explains why some apartments now have electricity. Another room, swamped by flood waters, has not sufficiently dried out.  An electrical fire that occurred several days ago was apparently the result of damp conditions in this area.  There are hopes that some buildings can be brought back online tomorrow.  A building manager told residents today that he expected full electrical power by the middle of next week.

Op Ed: How We Can Help LES Proprietors Post-Sandy

Many businesses on Clinton Street were shuttered for a full week after Hurricane Sandy hit the Lower East Side.

Thanks to Lo-Down reader and local resident, Kristin Anderson, for sending us her thoughts on the importance of supporting our community in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

I’m lucky. No personal damage. No property damage. A few days of discomfort and inconvenience. But once I had my power, heat and hot water back, and the dust from Hurricane Sandy had settled, I started to think about our neighborhood. Particularly our small business owners. Particularly those who lost not just a few days of business but a significant amount of perishable goods for which they had already paid. The major relief efforts are going to the people and places who suffered significant damage, as they should be. But that doesn’t mean that others didn’t take a blow. For those close to us, who is there to help them in a pinch?

Sure they can apply to FEMA, but that is really just for a small business loan, not reimbursement. And who knows how long it will take to get that processed. They can write off a business loss, but that is only a percentage of the cost so isn’t reimbursement either. But they had to buy replacement inventory, immediately, in order to re-open and serve us once again.

Forget the semantics; there is no difference between a small business and a small business owner. What hurts the business hurts the owner; the man or woman you know behind the counter. These are the people that make the LES my favorite part of NYC. Of the world. They are my extended support system, keep me fed, and keep my environment friendly and interesting. The convenience and variety they supply allow me to concentrate on my business and make my living (I work from home).

LES BID Creates Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund

Later this week we’ll have a report from Friday’s workshop for small businesses seeking assistance in overcoming the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy.  But here’s one tidbit announced at the event by the LES Business Improvement District. They’re creating a relief fund — offering grants to businesses impacted by the storm.  A fundraiser in support of the program will be held at the DL (95 Delancey Street) November 27. Tickets will range from $25-100.  Small businesses on the Lower East Side will be able to apply for relief through the fund. We’ll have more details about the fundraiser and the fund in the next few days.


Happening Now: Hurricane Aid Workshop

We’re at the Houston Street Center, where a large crowd has turned out to find out how to apply for small business disaster aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Knickerbocker Village in the Dark

We have been keeping a close eye this week on Knickerbocker Village, the nearly 1600 unit affordable housing complex that’s still mostly without power and heat in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday we spent a couple of hours visiting with residents, checking out a warming center set up by Hamilton Madison House and trying to determine just how much longer the repairs on the development’s decimated electrical systems are likely to take.

The complex, which spans two city blocks on Monroe Street between Catherine and Market, includes around 700 tenants over the age of 60. There are a couple dozen home-bound seniors who require daily attention. On Tuesday, a 101-year old woman, Pao Chu Hsieh, died in a fifth floor apartment after experiencing trouble breathing. Hsieh, who did not live at Knickerbocker Village but was staying with her son, died of natural causes, according to the Medical Examiner.  But news of her death has caused many at Knickerbocker Village to focus on the risks to the elderly population, living for an extended period with no heat.

Reminder: Help For Small Businesses Impacted by Hurricane Tomorrow

As noted earlier in the week (click the link for info), there’s a workshop tomorrow morning to help small businesses struggling to bounce back after Hurricane sandy. There’s a similar workshop being held in the afternoon in Chinatown. See above for details.


Peck Slip Pickle Festival Goes On as Planned Sunday

Hurricane Sandy battered the historic Seaport area, flooding many shops and restaurants, and displacing a lot of residents.   On Sunday, the neighborhood will receive a much-needed boost when the Peck Slip Pickle Festival goes on as planned at the New Amsterdam Market.

Last night, we talked with Robert LaValva, the founder of the market, about the tough times being experienced by local businesses, and about this weekend’s event.  On November 4, the New Amsterdam Market sponsored a volunteer day; 250 people came out to assist the Seaport neighborhood with recovery efforts.

LaValva said he sees the Pickle Festival as a great opportunity to support the community. “We felt it was even more important to go ahead with the Pickle Festival now” than before the storm hit, he said.  LaValva added that some of the vendors taking part on Sunday were scheduled to be involved in the Lower East Side’s pickle festival, which was cancelled due to the hurricane.   The Peck Slip event, which is still evolving, is envisioned as an international showcase, celebrating not only Eastern European pickling traditions but those of other cultures as well.  On Sunday, for example, Chinese and Persian pickle purveyors will be represented.

Power Still Out at Knickerbocker Village; Situation Called an “Emergency”

The situation at Knickerbocker Village, the historic affordable housing complex on Monroe Street, is growing increasingly serious today.  As we reported yesterday, many of the 1600 or so apartments still have no electric power, heat or hot water.  An electrical fire that followed Con Ed’s restoration of power Friday is the culprit.  Hamilton Madison House, a non-profit with close ties to Knickerbocker Village, set up daytime shelter at 50 Madison Street (in the Smith Houses), and local elected officials have been working to supply blankets and hot meals.

This morning we spoke with Hamilton Madison House’s Vicki Mehmel, who’s coordinating efforts on behalf of the apartment building’s residents.  She said engineers have restored partial power to four of 12 buildings.  They were hoping to have the entire east side of the complex online by the end of the week, but hopes are fading that it will happen.  Mehmel said it’s possible the west side of Knickerbocker Village will be without power for up to three weeks (we’re working on confirming this).  The problem, she said, is that there’s still up to 25 feet of water in the mechanical and boiler rooms.

Local Elected Officials Update Hurricane Recovery Efforts

Sheldon Silver and Margaret Chin at Confucius Plaza last week.

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has been a hectic time for the Lower East Side’s elected officials, who have served as a link between government and relief agencies and the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan.

Yesterday morning Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver met with representatives of the mayor’s office to give them an assessment of the “various needs of downtown buildings.”   His office also distributed blankets to the Smith Houses, the NEST+m school and the Educational Alliance. Tuesday he was on site at Knickerbocker Village, which is still partially without electricity, to deliver hot meals to weary residents.

State Senator Daniel Squadron, who has been a ubiquitous presence in the neighborhood for the past week, also arranged for blanket deliveries at Knickerbocker Village and at the public housing developments on Pitt Street yesterday.

And last night, City Council member Margaret Chin sent out an update to constituents, detailing her efforts on behalf of Lower Manhattan residents.  Noting that many buildings still lack heat and hot water, the letter said, Chin is “working hard to encourage Con Ed to expedite their work, and Con Ed has been working around the clock to pump out electrical vaults of individual buildings.”  Chin’s letter included a resource list with lots of useful information.  We’ve posted some of the info in the past week, but it can’t hurt to get it out there as much as possible.  Squadron has been regularly updating a similar resource page. You can find it here.

Much of Knickerbocker Village Still Without Power, Heat, Hot Water

A lot of apartment buildings on the Lower East Side are still not back to normal following Hurricane Sandy.  At Knickerbocker Village, many residents are still in the dark, with no heat or hot water.  Electric power was initially restored to the large residential complex at Monroe and Catherine streets last Friday, but an electrical fire knocked out service to the buildings a short time later.  We’re told crews have been working around to the clock to make repairs. Some apartments have apparently been brought on line, but many people are still without power.

Last night, U.S, Rep. Nydia Velazquez arranged to have one-thousand hot meals delivered to residents.  City Council member Margaret Chin has also been working with Knickerbocker Village management and local non-profits to make sure elderly tenants are receiving the attention they need.  Two organizations – Hamilton Madison House and Two Bridges neighborhood Council – have been involved in these efforts. We’ll have more details about the situation at the nearly 1600-unit complex later today.


Con Ed Letter: “There is Limited Steam Generation Capacity at This Time”

A local resident noticed this letter from Con Ed hanging at Village East Towers on East 10th Street. It reads:

Dear steam customer,

We understand that this has been a challenging time for all of our customers, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience these outages have caused.  Please be assured that our employees have been working around the clock to restore steam service.  Unfortunately due to storm damage there is limited steam generation capacity at this time. With a cold front expected on Monday and Tuesday… we do not have enough capacity to meet our forecasted demand. Therefore, we are not able to restore any additional customers until more of our steam production units are brought online. We are working to bring additional steam supply into service so we can restore all of our customers. Once the system is capable of handling additional load we will begin restoring customers. We will work to return all customers to service as quickly and safely as possible, and a full system restoration is expected by November 11, 2012.  Thank you for your patience and support.

Charles Veimeister, Steam Business Development



Cherry Street Parking Garage Flooded; 82 Rutgers Street Suffered Serious Damage

It wasn’t a pretty sight inside the Central Parking garage at 227 Cherry Street in the hours after Hurricane Sandy came ashore. More than 50 cars were swamped by flood waters that rushed across South Street and turned the facility, located below the Pathmark store, into a lake.  Today the owners of those cars have still not been allowed inside to inspect the damage.

This morning we spoke with Melissa Nguyen, who has been helping to organize more than two dozen of the owners to get some answers from Central Parking about events that led up to the flood. According to Nguyen, the company ordered the garage locked at 4 p.m. Sunday.  Some people, herself included, were at work or unable to remove their cars in the afternoon for other reasons.  She said Central Parking was incredibly unsympathetic and inflexible about their predicament.  In the aftermath of the storm, car owners have not been granted access to the facility for the purpose of filing insurance claims.  The group is now exploring legal options.