In Lower Manhattan, Sandy Grounds Some High-Rise Residents for Months

Friday, November 09, 2012

Beth Rice lives with her husband in a one-bedroom rental on the 11th floor of a luxury high-rise in the financial district.

Three thousand dollars a month buys her floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and a view of the East River. The apartment has a kitchen she loves to cook in and enough space for her to read in one room while her husband’s on the computer in another.

But when Hurricane Sandy sent salt water flooding through 2 Gold Street, where Rice lives, it fried the building’s electrical systems and spread a strong gas odor throughout the building.

So while much of Manhattan begins to return to business as usual after the storm, Rice, 42, and her husband spent last week holed up in a 90-square-foot Midtown hotel room for $165 a night.

“It’s not, let’s say, soundproof,” she said, gesturing to the frosted glass bathroom that’s uncomfortably close to the bed. “Thankfully, my husband and I have been together for a long enough time.”

TF Cornerstone, the management company for 2 Gold Street, estimates it could be at least two months until Rice and her neighbors can return home.

There are roughly 200 large office and residential buildings in Manhattan in a similar situation because of problems with the building’s internal systems, according to Con Edison. The buildings must make repairs before the utility can restore power.

“The problems seem quite different building to building,” said Lockhart Steele, a founder of the real-estate blog Curbed that has been crowd-sourcing information from tenants about affected buildings.

“That has so much to do with how much sea water the building took on and basically where the equipment was positioned in the building,” he said, “so some buildings might have relatively minor damage or only have to replace a couple systems while others may have to replace everything.”

Communication from buildings about how long repairs will take has also varied widely, leaving many tenants feeling frustrated. 

“We’ve been planning day by day,” said Steele, whose own building in the South Street Seaport’s Historic Front Street development was also flooded. “We just moved to [planning] week by week and we have our eyes set on month to month.”

Heather Hansen is in a similar holding pattern. She too lives at 2 Gold Street. She, her boyfriend and two roommates live on the 23rd floor in a three-bedroom apartment, paying a total of $5,000 a month. But until she finds a sublet, she’s crashing at her parents’ house in central New Jersey.

“My parents live in a retirement community,” said Hansen, 26, who works in television production. “So me and my boyfriend are sharing the bed — which we never slept together in the same bed at my parents house, but they’re allowing it because of these emergency situations now.”

After getting out of work at 7 p.m., Hansen’s entire evening is now spent commuting.

“For some people, a crowded Port Authority and a daily commute of two hours is their daily reality,” she said. “I took things for granted, going home and only having a 30 minute commute and having that spare time.”

TF Cornerstone has already said that tenants won’t have to pay rent during the time they aren’t able to live in the building. They’re also letting tenants break their leases without any penalties if they simply want to move.

But Hansen and Rice both said they’re going still figuring out what to do next. After all, without electricity to power the elevators in their apartment towers, most of their possessions and all of their furniture are trapped in their sky-high apartments.


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Comments [7]

Sorry, but I can't agree with Emily. I live a few blocks from 2 Gold Street and my rent is a lot less than those folks pay. I sat in the dark for six days, without any running water, no heat or electricity on the 27th floor of my building. It was six days before I got my electricity back and the heat was not turned on until this evening and I now have hot water...on the 12th day.

Yet I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones, and I do not begrudge those living north of 40th Street, who experienced no interruption in their lives.

The ones I pray for are our neighbors in Staten Island, the boroughs, the Jersey shore, the towns in New Jersey across the river, and elsewhere. So much misery and it will be a long time before their lives have any semblance of order.

Emily, the only "attitude" you should have is one of compassion. I hope you never have to experience what many of us have.

Nov. 09 2012 11:12 PM
Jared from Cliffside Park, NJ

The only person I have sympathy for, after hearing this story, is Che Guevara.

Emily: You're right on.

I can only listen to WNYC for a set period of time before I hear something that insults me; my sensibilities reach critical mass with this station and I throw my radio at the wall. Hearing this story is one of those times. There is NO WAY I could give money to a station where stories about whiny Manhattanites or annoying, snarky Brooklynites are considered news.

Who does care? Not me. Not about these people. Back to commercial radio.

Nov. 09 2012 06:19 PM

To ANYONE paying for hotels after being displaced because of Hurricane Sandy, know that you can take advantage of public assistance and file for housing through the FEMA website.

Nov. 09 2012 02:57 PM
Mitch Eisenman

Hard to imagine why people who can afford to lived in Manhattan are getting more coverage than the tens of thousands of us who live in the outer boroughs and suburban counties. Our losses were far more widespread and costly, and it most cases, affecting people with far fewer means.

Nov. 09 2012 12:19 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

Emily, part of me initially felt as you did when I started reading this piece, specifically because the subjects live in so-called "luxury" housing - especially since I know someone at work who lives in the Rockaways, makes less than $100 a day, and is now paying $200 a night to stay in a hotel until he and his wife can move back to their apartment.

However, after finishing the piece, it occurred to me - regardless of how much someone pays for their housing, where they live, or how much money they make - it is devastating to not be able to go home for such a long period of time, to not have access to your clothes or belongings, and to be paying to live in a hotel room, or live elsewhere while this whole situation is worked out. We should all have compassion for people in this situation, regardless of their economic status.

To those paying high fees for hotel rooms - please check out Air; rooms and apartments for rent are far cheaper than hotels, and Air BNB is also working with the city to offer places for free to those effected by Sandy.

Nov. 09 2012 10:22 AM
Krystyna from 90 Washington St. New York, NY

At least TF Cornerstone are putting their tenants first; offering ability to break leases immediately, as well as had offered temporary housing and ability to move into other buildings without additional security deposits, etc. This was publicized before the extent of the damage was known. Unfortunately, there are other property owners, such as Moinian (owners of nearby residency 90 Washington St.) who have no regard for their tenants and provide completely vague communications.

Additionally, the only reason tenants received a Q&A was after asking for it and showing them the one released about 2 Gold St. immediately following the hurricane. Although I feel for the residents at 2 Gold St., I appreciate the professionalism of TF Cornerstone and their management to make it known tenants are what is most important. There are buildings, such as 90 Washington St. where the owners and management companies are being less professional and treating tenants with no respect.

Nov. 09 2012 09:52 AM
Emily Johnson from Rutherford, NJ

I kept listening to this story waiting for the catch. Then it ended and I was left wondering why I am a sustaining member to a station that thinks the whining of some tenants in a luxury high rise is newsworthy? I did get a laugh when the woman said she applied to FEMA for assistance.


Who. Cares.

Nov. 09 2012 09:15 AM

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