High electric bills have Gateway Plaza tenants hot
Ice forms inside unsealed windows at Gateway Plaza. December 2013 file photo courtesy of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association.
BY SAM SPOKONY | Gateway Plaza tenants are outraged over their incredibly high electric bills this winter — some of which surpassed $1,000 — and are still calling on their landlord to complete long-overdue repairs that would make their buildings more energy efficient.
“We’re in electric shock, as Gateway is in an electric bill crisis,” said Glenn Plaskin, president of the tenant association for the six-building, 1,700-unit complex in Battery Park City. “Management attributes skyrocketing costs to rising Con Edison rates and sub-zero temperatures, and while those things are both true, the underlying cause of these astronomical energy bills is the condition of our buildings.”
Gateway’s landlord, the LeFrak Organization, has been heavily criticized by tenants and local politicians after failing to keep a promise — made more than a year ago — to replace or upgrade all of the complex’s leaky windows, poor insulation and aging heating units by the end of 2013. As of now, none of the windows have been replaced, only around 500 out of 4,000 heating units have been replaced and the insulation remains subpar, according to Plaskin.
The tenant leader also pointed out that since Gateway’s electric meters are now 33 years old, he and many other tenants believe they could be giving faulty readings and should also be replaced. The whole situation, he said, goes at odds with the fact that Gateway is marketed as a “luxury” housing complex.
“Do we call this property luxury,” Plaskin wondered. “With snow, ice, rain and cold air insinuating itself into apartments, tenants are suffering both physically and financially. It’s very sad when tenants with young children tell me its difficult to keep their children warm.”
As with some other developments around the city, Gateway tenants are not billed directly by Con Ed for their electricity use. Instead, LeFrak buys energy in bulk from the utility company and then acts as a middle man in billing the residents.
And while Con Ed did raise its prices this winter — according to Gateway’s bills, the costs rose about 20 percent from 21 cents per kilowatt hour in December to 25 cents per kilowatt hour in January — tenants at the complex saw their costs increase at a much, much higher rate, even though they claimed not to have used any more energy.
Gateway tenant Nancy Chambers, 70, said the bills for her one-bedroom apartment nearly doubled this winter, from just over $300 for December to $567 for January. She and her husband, who both live on a fixed income through Social Security, had to borrow money just cover those costs, even as they’ve remained shivering cold due to the shoddy windows, bad insulation and a fear of racking up even higher fees by trying to warm their home.
“I’m sitting here in the cold, under blankets, and I’m too scared to crank the heat,” she said. “I don’t want to move…I want to stay here, but I just want to be warm, and I shouldn’t have to borrow money just to pay these bills.”
William Couig also lives in a one-bedroom apartment at Gateway, with his wife and young daughter, and although he said his use of heat didn’t increase, his bill similarly shot up from around $300 for December to more than $500 for January.
“When I called management to complain about the bill, they didn’t even want to talk about the subject,” said Couig. “They posted these notices throughout the building saying that Con Ed had raised its prices, trying to say that’s why the bills were so much higher.”
However, weeks after Couig’s original complaint went unheeded, a management employee stopped by to read his electric meter.
“[That worker] said there were some abnormalities with the meter, maybe some spikes, and he said he wanted to come look at it again,” Couig explained. “That was a couple of weeks ago, and we haven’t heard back from them yet.”
And Tom Goodkind, a Community Board 1 member who lives in a two-bedroom apartment at Gateway with his wife and children, said he somehow racked up an exorbitantly high January bill — just over $1,000.
“And everything is unplugged all day while we’re all at work and school,” said Goodkind. “There’s just something wrong here.”
A LeFrak spokesperson declined to answer specific questions about possible meter abnormalities that may have led to the absurdly high electric bills.
But in a statement responding to questions about the overdue building repairs — which could improve the complex’s energy efficiency — the landlord seemed less worried about completing the repairs than about using them as leverage in its ongoing rent negotiations with the Battery Park City Authority, the state organization which is effectively LeFrak’s landlord.
“Gateway has engaged in productive discussions with agencies of the State of New York, its regulator and ground-landlord, in the hopes of making adjustments to its outdated ground lease to facilitate investments at the property,” said the landlord’s spokesperson in the March 4 statement.
The B.P.C.A. declined to comment on the situation.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has met with both the B.P.C.A. and Gateway’s tenant association to discuss the issue, and said in a March 5 statement that they’re all working together as part of an “ongoing effort” to make the repairs and upgrades. But he had took a strong stance against the current living situations at the complex.
“I have made clear that residents of Gateway Plaza should not have to pay sky-high electric bills for poorly insulated apartments,” said Silver, who has negotiated past Gateway rent agreements with LeFrak for over two decades. “I am encouraged that discussions are now taking place with Gateway’s owner, and I am committed to ensuring that these unacceptable conditions are fixed as soon as possible.”
And State Sen. Daniel Squadron — who has pushed for the repairs ever since working with LeFrak and Gateway’s T.A. to conduct an energy audit of the complex in 2012 — responded to LeFrak’s terse statement by once again calling on the landlord to simply honor its previous commitment.
“At a meeting last February, Gateway residents were promised basic repairs and energy efficiency upgrades,” Squadron told Downtown Express on March 4. “Now, 13 months later, they’re still waiting for the promise to be kept. That’s simply wrong.”
Lawyer Assembles Group to Negotiate or Sue
Over Electric Costs and Living Conditions
|Gateway Plaza beyond North Cove
A lawyer who lives in Gateway Plaza is assembling a group of tenants in the giant rental complex, which has been plagued by complaints about poorly insulated windows, inefficient climate-control units, inaccurate electrical meters, and exorbitant monthly bills for heating and cooling, to negotiate a satisfactory resolution or else sue the landlord.
“We’ve had more than a dozen people join as plaintiffs,” says Ken Perry, “but the final number of clients will not get set until March 12, which is the deadline for signing up.” For a flat fee, Mr. Perry is offering to bargain on behalf of all the residents who join as complainants. (Costs will increase in the event that the matter proceeds to trial, he says.) “We all like living in Gateway,” Mr. Perry reflects, “I’ve been here for 23 years, and some of my clients moved in before I did. None of us want to leave. But Gateway has a decades-long habit of doing things their own way and not really addressing problems. They move slowly at best, and only when they have to. For the entire time that I’ve lived here, they have been promising us new windows.”
The controversy arises from a decades-old provision in Gateway leases, which requires tenants to purchase their electricity from the landlord, who buys it at a discount from a utility and then resells it to residents. While this arrangement theoretically saves tenants money on the cost of each kilowatt-hour they use, the ongoing problems with windows and faulty meters, along with obsolete heating and air conditioning units, results in Gateway residents using vastly more electricity than they would under other circumstances.
“A lot of the problems here are systemic,” Mr. Perry alleges, citing monthly electric bills of several clients in excess of $1,000 during extremely hot or cold weather. “We’d like to work these out through negotiation, but that is up to Gateway. They haven’t told me yet whether they’re willing to negotiate, but if not, we will fight this in court.”
“Either way,” he explains, “our primary focus is getting these things fixed. We need heating units that work, and we need windows that keep out wind and cold air. I have one client who owns a beauty salon in the West Village, which is a business that consumes a lot of electricity. But his shop uses fewer kilowatt hours, at a lower price per kilowatt hour, than his small Gateway apartment. Some units here are using more than 2,000 kilowatt hours per month, just trying to keep the temperature above freezing. Several of my clients are getting electric bills $1,000 to $1,200 per month, and their apartments are not even warm.”
Snow accumulation inside a Gateway Plaza apartment,
“If Gateway is reselling us electricity they buy from Con Ed, they have a duty to get the best price they can get,” Mr. Perry argues. “But the price they say they are paying is far higher than the rate paid by smaller buildings around the City that also buy their electricity at a discount and resell it to residents. I’ve seen smaller buildings paying 11 to 13 cents per kW hour, but Gateway is paying 24 to 25 cents.”
“My clients are angry,” Mr. Perry says. “They are tired of hearing the same promises, they are tired of freezing in their so-called ‘luxury’ apartments, and they’re ready to litigate.”
Mr. Perry speaks from personal experience. Several years ago, he stopped trying to reason with Gateway management about conditions in his own apartment. “I sued them and stopped paying rent and we came to a negotiated settlement, under which they agreed to install internal storm windows in my apartment that match my external windows. Now, I have no wind coming into my apartment at all, and it cut my electric bill in half. So there are things that they can do for people whose apartments are unlivable.”A spokesman for the landlord responded that, “Gateway has engaged in productive discussions with agencies of the State of New York, its regulator and ground-landlord, in the hopes of making adjustments to its outdated ground lease to facilitate investments at the property.”Glenn Plaskin, the president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association, added that, “the Tenants Association is fully aware of all the issues related to the infrastructure at Gateway. We have chosen to pursue a negotiation to solve these issues, a negotiation involving our political representatives, including State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and City Council member Margaret Chin, together with the leadership at the Battery Park City Authority. Tenants are free to take whatever action they chose to on their own.”
photos by Robert Simko
Battery Park City residents cold, but repairs are slow
Originally published: January 26, 2014 7:19 PM
Updated: January 26, 2014 9:10 PM
By MARIA ALVAREZ. Special to Newsday
Pauline Wolf poses for a photo in her apartment in the Gateway Plaza, an apartment complex in Battery Park City in Manhattan. The 94-year-old is one of many in the complex that are suffering with inadequate electric heaters through this winter’s bitter cold. (Jan. 22, 2014) (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)
Residents and owners all say windows are drafty and insulation repairs are needed, but it is uncertain when all of the repairs will occur.
“This is ghetto luxury living,” said tenant Nancy Nowinski who sleeps with three comforters at night and duct tapes her windows to keep the cold air from coming in.
She said maintenance workers have installed foam strips to “plug up” the drafts of cold air that come through the heating units, but to no avail.
“The temperature in my apartment is always between 49 to 61 degrees. I’ve had it. I’ve called 311 and I’m tired,” Nowinski said.
Glenn Plaskin, president of Gateway Plaza Tenants Association, said the conditions are due to inherent problems in the building that need repair. “The building is 30 years old and there are 1,712 apartments and many tenants are having major problems such as snow and ice and even rain coming through their windows.” he said. “It’s a structural defect.”
A spokesperson for The LeFrak Organization, which owns the building, blames the slow pace of repairs on the Battery Park City Authority, which owns the land and collects ground rents from the various high-rise apartment buildings.
“The property’s management would like to make investments in the property, but is unable to do so without the cooperation of the property’s landlord, which is the Battery Park City Authority,” the agency said in an email.
Battery Park City Authority, a state agency, said it was working with LeFrak and had given the owner concessions on its rent so that improvements on the building could begin.
“In early 2013, we understand management had promised tenants they would make the necessary improvements to replace windows, heating and A/C units, and insulation by year’s end; however to this date, the majority of this work is yet to be done,” the authority said in a statement.
A meeting is scheduled for next month among LeFrak, the Battery Park City Authority and the tenants association.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been advocating for the tenants, said they have “suffered for years because of poorly insulated windows and enormous electric bills.”
The frigid temperatures have forced Pauline Wolf, 94, to bundle up in throw blankets to keep warm and crank up the heat full blast so she can sleep at night.
“I’m very happy living here,” she said from her one-bedroom apartment where she has lived for 12 years. “I love my apartment, but it’s freezing,” she said. Last month, Wolf’s electricity bill totaled $277.30, which includes heating, lights and other appliances, and is higher than normal.
Wolf pays $3,100 a month in rent. Despite a new heater that was recently installed, cold air continues to blow through the sleeves of the heating unit. LeFrak has started to install 400 new heaters.
“It feels like I have the air-conditioning on in my bedroom,” said Wolf, who keeps a space heater next to her living room recliner to keep warm.
Wolf’s son Michael also lives in Gateway Plaza. He said he has to put towels on the windowsills to soak up the melted snow and ice that build up during the night.
“The water runs off onto our carpets and floors,” said Wolf, who thinks a rent strike will force The LeFrak Organization to install new heaters faster and insulate the apartments to keep the cold air out. “We can put the money into escrow until something is done.”
As record-low temperatures leave many residents at Gateway Plaza scraping ice off the inside of poorly-insulated windows and sleeping in winter clothing, Community Board 1 passed a resolution at its January 29 meeting that calls upon the Lefrak Organization (owner of Gateway Plaza) to upgrade windows and climate control units.
The same resolution urged the Battery Park City Authority to support Gateway residents (and the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association) in their “struggle to secure a safe and energy-efficient living space.”
Gateway still hot over cold apartments, but rent strike talk loses
Ice forms inside unsealed windows at Gateway Plaza.Photo courtesy of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association.
BY SAM SPOKONY | Tensions are coming to a head at Gateway Plaza, where residents of the Battery Park City complex continue to suffer in cold due to faulty heating units and unsealed windows that allow ice and frigid air to leak into their apartments.
Some residents are even talking about a rent strike, although that action is not currently supported by the complex’s tenant association.
Last February, the LeFrak Organization — which owns the six-building, middle-income, 1,700-unit complex on South End Ave. — told tenants that all of their PTAC units (which provide heating and air conditioning), insulation and windows would be repaired or replaced by December 2013. But at this point, no new windows have been installed, no insulation repairs have taken place and only about 300 new PTAC units have been installed.
On Jan. 9, 200 additional heating units were delivered to Gateway, and are now in the process of being installed, according to Tenants Association President Glenn Plaskin — he acknowledged that development as “progress” on the issue — but that still leaves around 3,500 units to be replaced.
At the Community Board 1 Battery Park City Committee meeting Jan. 7, the idea for more aggressive tenant action came up while numerous Gateway residents were sharing their experiences of freezing indoor temperatures and ice forming along the inside of their windows.
“I think a rent strike is not out of the question,” said C.B. 1 member Tom Goodkind, who has lived at Gateway for 25 years and who, in addition to struggling with the cold weather, is one of many residents who thinks he has been overcharged for electricity bills due to faulty meters.
Several other residents supported that notion during the meeting — although many of their comments seemed to have been made in the heat of the moment — while acknowledging the difficulty of getting each of the complex’s 1,700 units onboard.
But following a meeting of the Gateway T.A.’s Executive Board on the evening of Jan. 9, Plaskin said that the T.A. does not consider a rent strike to be one of its primary options at this time, and declined to directly comment on the future possibility of attempting one. Instead, he said that he’s focused on a more diplomatic approach to making LeFrak aware of the ongoing problems.
“We want to work with the management on this, so my first option is always negotiation,” Plaskin told Downtown Express the next day. “I realize that the tenants are very upset, and they have reason to be. But screaming and yelling and threatening is not always the best strategy. We value our working relationship with management, because that’s how we can really get things done.”
However, Plaskin did say that he is in ongoing discussions with attorneys regarding the possibility of a lawsuit against LeFrak for violating city’s warranty of habitability, which requires landlords to provide tenants with a “livable, safe and sanitary apartment,” according to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board.
He declined to comment on the details of those discussions, or how likely it is that the T.A. will file a suit.
“When you’re trying to help 4,000 tenants, you have to reserve all options,” he said.
LeFrak declined to comment on both the status of heating unit and windows replacement and the possibility of further tenant actions.
Plaskin explained that, in order to continue more diplomatic communications with the landlord, the T.A.’s primary focus at this point is to bring tenants together and learn precisely the extent of their problems, as well as their opinions on future steps to be taken.
To that effect, he said that the Gateway T.A. will be holding a community forum some time at the end of February, to which all of the complex’s residents will be invited to voice their experiences and concerns.
Plaskin also said that said that, over the course of the next week, members of the T.A. will be setting up tables in Gateway building lobbies to collect more information from tenants, who are urged to share their problems and needs.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — who has been very active over the past few decades in securing affordable housing agreements and supporting tenants’ rights at Gateway — said on Jan. 10 that he plans, once again, to get involved in this issue.
“I am committed to continuing [my] efforts on behalf of Gateway Plaza residents, who have suffered for years because of poorly insulated windows and enormous electric bills,” Silver said in the emailed statement. “The recent frigid weather served to once again highlight these problems. I met with the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association and Battery Park City Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel to discuss residents’ concerns, and I intend to work with Gateway’s owner to address them.”
The Battery Park City Authority did not respond to a request for comment.
Downtown News & Events
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
|Baby, It’s Cold Inside…
Gateway Tenants Discuss Possible Rent Strike
as Icicles Form in Their Apartments
On a day that New York broke a record for low temperatures that has stood for 117 years, residents of Gateway Plaza gathered to share stories about icicles forming inside their windows, and air cold enough to cause frostbite blowingthrough gaps in their walls. Others deplored receiving electric bills (of) in excess of $600 per month because of the need to keep heating units in poorly insulated apartments running full blast 24 hours per day, in order to raise room temperatures to slightly above freezing.
At Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1, Glenn Plaskin, the president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA), said, “winter is obviously here, and once again, Gateway management has not adequately prepared for it. We have 1,712 apartments with 11,000 windows and 4,000 [climate control] units that are supposed to heat and cool the rooms. But the great majority of those units date back to post-9/11. Our windows date back 30 years. They leak air, rain, snow, and ice — with buildups of snow and ice inside the windowsill.” Mr. Plaskin then began a slideshow of photos taken at half a dozen Gateway apartments during the past week, which showed snow and frost accumulating in residents’ bedrooms and living rooms.
“I’m here to say that we have had enough,” Mr. Plaskin continued. “Yes, the maintenance staff is responsive and tries their best. Yes, the general manager, Greg Tumminia, works hard. But they’re patching together quick fixes for a building that is intrinsically flawed.” He added that, “not having adequate heat in your apartment, scraping snow or ice off your windows, in our view is a breach of the warranty of habitability,” in a reference to the regulatory status that defines a New York apartment as a legally authorized dwelling.
Battery Park City Committee member (and Gateway resident) Tom Goodkind raised the possibility of a rent strike. “We need to revisit some things that are sacred to Lefrak,” the owner of the complex. “Gateway has struck before. I don’t know how many of you were here for the strikes of the early 1980s, but that’s why we have a tenants organization. I think a strike is not out of the question.” Mr. Plaskin replied that, “a rent strike is certainly a possibility if the tenants would get behind it and put all their rent in escrow, as a statement that they’re not going to continue living in buildings that simply can’t cope with extreme weather conditions. It would certainly be the most dramatic option that it’s possible to take. We’re seeking legal counsel to advise us about the warrant of habitability.”
No representative from the Lefrak Organization attended Tuesday night’s meeting, or if one did, that person did not identify himself. A call to a spokesman for the Lefrak Organization, requesting comment, was not returned.
Gateway resident Buff Kavelman, one of the residents who has photographed icicles inside her bedroom, said she had filed a complaint with the Department of Buildings about the warrant of habitability for her apartment.
Mr. Goodkind added that he typically receives an electric bill in excess of $600 during the winter months, “even though we use the heating units sparingly.” (This issue arises from an unusual arrangement by which Gateway tenants are unable to purchase their electricity from a utility company, such as Con Edison, but are instead required to buy it from the landlord. The Lefrak Organization purchases electric current from a utility company, and then charges residents a markup.)
Referring to the need to replace climate control units, Mr. Plaskin noted that, “the chief procurement officer for Lefrak stated last spring that by this winter we would have all new climate control units. Now they say they are still testing units, but have installed only 300 new units.”
At the conclusion of the discussion, the Battery Park City Committee drafted a resolution supporting the position of the GPTA and calling upon the Lefrak Organization to remedy the issues raised the group. That resolution will be voted on at the full, monthly meeting of Community Board 1, which is scheduled for 6:00 pm on Tuesday, January 28, at the Manhattan Youth Community Center (120 Warren Street).
The New Generation of Gateway Plaza Residents at our GPTA Holiday Party
Downtown News & Events
Thursday, December 12, 2013
photo credit (copyright) Robert Braunfeld
Veronica Kelly, GPTA VP David Levine, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and GPTA President Glenn Plaskin at the Southwest Holiday Reception
Holiday Cheer at the 2013 Southwest Gateway Reception
Second Annual Holiday Celebration
Residents of Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City are invited to a Holiday Celebration with friends, family and neighbors at a reception co-hosted by SouthWestNY, 301 South End Avenue (at Albany Street), on Sunday, December 8, from 6 – 9pm. The restaurant is providing complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and a professional photographer will be on hand to take keepsake photos as a memento of the holidays.
Last year’s holiday gathering drew over 300 guests, the largest event ever held by the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA), and it was attended by City Council member Margaret Chin, current Community Board 1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes, and former CB1 Chair Julie Menin.
All those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to GPlazaTA@gmail.com
by Friday, December 6th.
For more information about the GPTA, visit gpta.org
Downtown News & Events
Friday, December 6, 2013
|Are Gateway Energy-Efficiency Upgrades
on the Back Burner?
Squadron Calls for Timetable; GPTA President Says Progress Is Too Slow
State Senator Daniel Squadron is asking Gateway Plaza Management to give an account of progress made on energy efficiency since the complex underwent an energy audit that was released in 2012. In a November 19 letter to the Lefrak Organization, Gateway’s owners, Mr. Squadron asked about, “the status of energy efficiency upgrades and repairs to apartments and common areas in Gateway Plaza.”
After a contentious public meeting held in February, 2013, Gateway management announced that it planned to upgrade boilers and ventilation systems throughout the complex, and implement improvements within individual apartments, including the replacement of decades-old climate-control units (known as PTACs, for Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner) and the installation of new electric meters, which have been alleged to tally up widely divergent electric bills for identical apartments.
Glenn Plaskin, the president of the Gateway Plaza Tenant’s Association (GPTA) said, “with winter on its way and temperatures about to plunge, I’m sorry to say that, while some progress has been made, it is not nearly as much as we had hoped. In the February meeting, representatives from Gateway management said there would be new PTACs and new electric meters before winter, 2013. Winter is now days away, and while they have slowly begun to install new PTACs into some apartments, there has been nothing like the complete replacement that we believe they agreed to.”
“They have also been testing new electric meters,” Mr. Plaskin said, “which is a positive step, as is their stated intention to install new meters in all apartments. But progress has been very, very slow. These meters are 30 years old, and register bills for some one-bedroom apartments at around $100 per month, while other, identical units get bills for up to four or five times that amount. The GPTA believes we need a complete replacement of all PTACs and all electric meters now.”
Mr. Plaskin said, “Gateway has also hired a firm to assess current conditions with regard to windows and insulation, and outline their options. But they have not yet committed to replacing all windows and re-insulating every apartment.”
“Gateway is being marketed as a luxury complex,” Mr. Plaskin continued, “where some apartments are rented for as much as $6,000 per month. But these buildings are not well insulated and they are not well heated. That’s a fundamental problem. I’m optimistic that Gateway will make all these changes eventually, but it is just not happening fast enough.”
Mr. Squadron’s letter to the Lefrak Organization closes with a request for, “the status and a timetable for the completion of the work. It is important that repairs and upgrades be completed both for the efficiency of the complex and the reduction in energy costs passed on to residents of Gateway Plaza.”
A spokesman for the Lefrak Organization did not respond to a request for comment.
photo by Robert Simko
Gateway tenants not cool with the cool air
December 4, 2013 | Filed under: News
| Posted by: admin
BY SAM SPOKONY | Many Gateway Plaza residents may feel cold again this winter, as planned repairs to their apartment windows, insulation and heating units are still incomplete.
The six-building, 1,700-unit complex on South End Ave. underwent an extensive energy audit in August 2012, after which auditors compiled a list of recommendations for upgrades and repairs.
The audit was the result of a collaborative effort between the LeFrak Organization, which owns the Battery Park City complex, Gateway’s Tenant Association and State Sen. Daniel Squadron. In addition to the plans to replace shoddy windows, insulation and PTAC units (which provide heating and air conditioning), LeFrak also committed to upgrading the development’s boilers and ventilation systems, according to Squadron’s office.
And at a public meeting in February, a LeFrak representative told tenants that the repairs and upgrades would be completed by the following winter — the end of 2013 — according to Glenn Plaskin, Gateway’s tenant leader.
“It’s a quality of life issue for our units, especially those with elderly residents, or families with young children,” Plaskin said in a phone interview last week. “We get so many letters from people who say that cold air is coming right through their windows and the insulation of their walls.”
In addition to those issues of discomfort, he explained that the faulty infrastructure causes “exorbitantly high” energy bills for some residents who have to crank up their heat to deal with the frosty air.
Plaskin said he’s learned that Gateway’s management has already installed some new PTAC units — perhaps several hundred — and that LeFrak is currently testing several different brands to see which is most effective.
But no new windows have yet been installed, and insulation repairs have also not yet taken place, he said.
Squadron sent a letter to LeFrak on Nov. 19, asking for an update on the status to the repairs and upgrades, but the landlord has not yet responded to the request, according to Squadron’s spokesperson
LeFrak’s spokesperson said the firm was not ready to “provide any details” on the matter.
“The good news is that LeFrak is aware of what needs to be done, and they’ve taken some steps forward by installing some of the PTAC units and getting price estimates for the new windows,” said Plaskin. “I’m optimistic that everything will eventually get done, but tenants need to keep making their voices heard if they want it to be done in a timely manner.”
Downtown News & Events
Friday, October 18, 2013
GPTA Criticizes Emergency Storm Readiness; Management Cites Progress
As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaches, the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA) is raising concerns about what it sees as the lack of emergency preparedness measures to prevent a repeat of the storm’s impact on Battery Park City’s largest residential complex, especially the building at 375 South End Avenue, where tenants were left without electricity, running water, or elevator service for five days. But Gateway Plaza management says it has made significant progress in making the buildings ready for another storm.
“A year after Sandy, Gateway, in our view, has not made adequate safety provisions for back-up systems should another weather emergency occur,” says GPTA President Glenn Plaskin. “If the Hudson overflowed, as it did last October, water would flood the basement of the 375 building, the one closest to the river. Because the electrical components have not been moved higher off the ground, the building would lose its electricity and water. The emergency lights in stairwells and hallways could fail, as they did [in 2012] “and there would be no elevator service.”
Mr. Plaskin adds that, “in a 35-story building, that’s a significant safety hazard. Elderly or disabled tenants could potentially be stranded with no way to get up or down, or comply with an evacuation order. And if the stairwell lights fail, there are no glow-in-the-dark strips installed on steps.”
|Flooding Downtown Following Sandy
Greg Tumminia, the general manager of Gateway Plaza, says, “during the storm Gateway lost power and services to the 375 building only. It was not by luck that we were able to restore power and all critical services at Gateway within five days of the storm. Our actions prior, during, and immediately after the storm are what enabled us to have the 375 building up and running within five days.”
Mr. Tumminia adds, “we had licensed electricians on site prior to the storm, and we made provisions to have hard-to-get fuses and parts on location. We were also able to keep the other Gateway buildings up and running throughout the storm because of the plan of action implemented to harden electrical service rooms.”
About actions taken after Hurricane Sandy, Mr. Tumminia says, “we have added additional portable emergency equipment, and we have improved conditions in the existing electrical rooms. We are currently working with a top engineering firm to further improve the electrical switch gear set-up. Many improvements have been completed. Emergency communication information has been circulated, email@example.com is an e-mail address that Gateway residents can use at any time. Lobbies have also had internet based phone services added in addition to the existing direct intercom lines [already] in place.”
But GPTA’s Mr. Plaskin points to the steps not yet taken: “While the management has stated that their intention is to set up a ‘power transfer switch’ — to allow them to tie in a portable generator to power at least one elevator, emergency lighting, and domestic water pumps — that system has not been purchased. And we’re told that it probably won’t be installed before the spring of 2014. This is not acceptable. A year is long enough to have solved this problem. And tenant safety is paramount.”
Mr. Plaskin adds that, “we believe this issue called for priority over the management’s focus on the gym and pool and newly-designed back lawn. Remember, entire boardwalks and oceanfront attractions have been rebuilt in New Jersey, while at Gateway, it’s taken a year to get this project off the ground. We hope that the management will accelerate their time-table to make this building as weather proof as possible.”
Mr. Tumminia counters that, “when a mandatory evacuation is issued by the City, people should find a way to obey that directive and make sure they are safe. I know that some people feel they may not have relocation options during an emergency. In addition, other people have pets that they don’t want to leave behind. When dealing with these New Age-storm systems, we never know the severity of a particular storm until it is sometimes too late.”
Mr. Plaskin acknowledges that management has made some progress, noting that, “Gateway is installing a key fob system that is about 70 to 80 percent complete, and everybody who has received one has also registered an e-mail address with management, which will facilitate communication in case of a future emergency.”
Mr. Tumminia concludes that, “Gateway has made improvements and added critical equipment to be more prepared for any potential storm events. We are continuing to make additional improvements that will further enhance our ability to cope with future storms like Sandy.”
Mr. Plaskin says that GPTA, “is in friendly communications with Gateway management, and we’re taking this one step at a time. They have explained what they plan to do and hope to do, but they haven’t done it yet, and winter weather is on its way. A complex this large needs a backup system that will provide each building with, at a minimum, one elevator, hallway and stairwell lights, and running water.”
photos by Robert Simko
The following letter was written in response to the October 18th article in the BroadsheetDAILY titled, “Doomsday Preppers: GPTA Criticizes Emergency Storm Readiness; Management Cites Progress.”
To the Editor:
I am dismayed that a year has passed without full safety measures being implemented at Gateway. As things stand, it would take management 4-5 days to get things up and running after a blackout — far too long to wait. They poured money into the back lawn and gym and pool, but didn’t think a reliable back-up system was a priority.I was displaced for 7 days during the storm, and then moved back in to realize there was only one elevator working. Without electricity during Sandy the stairwells were completely black and there were no neon strips to light the staircases. Walking up and down those stairs was treacherous. It’s not too late to fast forward their plans.If they choose not to, it’s a liability to all tenants.Thank you,
FROM THE DOWNTOWN EXPRESS:
Gateway Plaza emergency safety:
With more than 1,700 apartments, Gateway Plaza is the largest residential complex in Battery Park City. The Gateway Plaza Tenants Association feels that its storm protection measures are not up to snuff.
“Tenant safety is the top priority of any tenants association, “ said Glenn Plaskin, Tenants Association president, “and that’s why we’re concerned should another super-storm occur.”
He said there was no power transfer switch that would allow management to tie in a generator in the event of a power failure. That would mean that there would be no way to power an elevator, emergency lighting and domestic water pumps.
“We would find ourselves in a blackout once the emergency lights in the stairwells and hallways dim after six hours or so,” he said. “In a 35-story-building, how are elderly or disabled people going to evacuate the building? The stairwells don’t have luminescent strips, and even if they did, it would be extremely difficult for such tenants to get down to the lobby.”
He said that the restoration of power after four or five days just wouldn’t cut it and that a new generator system should be installed at once.
“We have been informed that management is going to solve this problem long-term by installing new equipment by spring of 2014,” he said. “In the meantime, we do hope they will do whatever they can to protect tenants. One essential mandate would be to create a list of those tenants who are most physically vulnerable and have staff members knock on each of those doors, in conjunction with the Fire Department when possible, so that these tenants will get the help they need to evacuate the building.”
- GPTA President Glenn Plaskin presenting Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver With A Lifetime Achievement Award For His Remarkable Contributions to Gateway residents and to all of Battery Park City
©2013 Terese Loeb Kreuzer. All rights reserved
Democratic Party Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, Community Board Chair Catherine McVeigh Hughes, U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler, GPTA President Glenn Plaskin, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Council Member Magaret Chin, Borough President Candidate Julie Menin
GPTA Vice President Peg Wallis leading the discussion of tenant issues at the May 6th public forum
Silver’s support Downtown remains strong
June 12, 2013 | Filed under: News
| Posted by: admin
Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spoke with Gateway Plaza tenant Irving Levine at a ceremony honoring the speaker’s work.
BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | “Nobody has done more for Gateway tenants than Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver,” said Glenn Plaskin, president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association. “For 20 years, he has been our strongest ally and a fierce supporter who believes in affordable housing.”
Plaskin was addressing an audience of Gateway tenants assembled in the auditorium of P.S./I.S. 276 on June 6 for the presentation to Speaker Silver of the first Gateway Plaza Tenants Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Battery Park City tenant group’s board voted unanimously six months ago to give a Lifetime Achievement Award to Silver. The award was based on the totality of his contribution to the quality of life for Gateway tenants, most notably his leading all rent stabilization negotiations.
Considering the recipient, there could not have been a more appropriate venue than the school at 55 Battery Place, which opened in 2010. Speaker Silver pushed the Department of Education to build the school and made it happen.
Several elected officials and community leaders who spoke about Silver that night noted this fact, among others.
“Since Speaker Silver has represented us, he has created four K-8 schools in Community Board 1 and we’re hoping we’ll get another one soon,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1.
“You’re right to give [Silver] a lifetime award today,” said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, “although we hope that his life and service will go on for a long time.”
Nadler said he met Silver in 1975 and they had worked together ever since.
“Shelly has been the speaker for 20 years and I can tell you that he has been one of the leading protectors of everything that most people in this auditorium today would hold dear,” Nadler said. He mentioned Silver’s work on behalf of women’s rights, education funding and affordable housing. He specifically mentioned that Silver protected rent stabilization in opposition to the governor and the State Senate.
“The fact that we still have rent control and rent stabilization is, to a very large extent, because of Shelly Silver, regardless of whether he gets credit for it,” said Nadler. “So you have chosen well. He deserves this Lifetime Achievement Award.”
With a lawsuit over his handling of the Vito Lopez sexual harassment case hanging over him, Silver may have had a rough day before he arrived at the Battery Park City school, but the warm reception that greeted him should have made up for it.
The audience applauded him loudly and at length.
“Thank you for your friendship and for your support over the years,” Silver said.
Julie Menin, Community Board 1’s former chairperson, who is running for Manhattan Borough President, said, “No one has believed in our community more than Speaker Silver.
“There was a time after Sept. 11 where people doubted the tenacity and perseverance of our neighborhood. And Speaker Silver said that was wrong, that we would be able to rebuild our community.”
City Councilmember Margaret Chin spoke of Silver’s protection of affordable housing, and her opponent for reelection, Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, spoke about how much she had learned from Silver about leadership.
For his part, Silver said, “Gateway Plaza and its residents have really been special to me.”
He said that it was at Gateway Plaza, which has 1,705 apartments and is the largest residential complex in Battery Park City, that he began the fight for affordable housing.
“It was 25 years ago, almost exactly, that the mandatory deregulation, rent stabilization ended at Gateway,” he said. “And here we are, 25 years later, still with a rent stabilization program — and it was a career just keeping it that way.”
Silver spoke about pressuring Richard LeFrak, chairperson and C.E.O. of the LeFrak Organization, which owns Gateway Plaza, to keep Gateway rent stabilized if he wanted to refinance the building. Long-time tenants of Gateway are still rent stabilized through 2020 although tenants who moved in after 2009 now pay market-rate rents.
Silver also referenced quality-of-life issues necessary to accommodate population growth in Lower Manhattan.
“We continue to push the Department of Education to build more schools for our rapidly growing community,” he said. “And likewise to accommodate that growth, we built new parks, we revamped recreational facilities such as the state-of-the-art ball fields just a few blocks from here.”
This is “a great place to live, and nobody thought it would be almost 12 years ago,” he said. “They figured people would flee Lower Manhattan and never return. We proved them wrong.“
He said that between the census of 2000 and 2010, Lower Manhattan and specifically his Assembly district, experienced larger population growth than any other community in New York City.
“Many of you were here on that dark day almost 12 years ago,” he said. “You stayed here. You helped rebuild because you believed in community. You believed in your neighbors and you believed in working together to ensure that Battery Park City continues to be one of the greatest places in our city to live, to work and to raise a family.”
Gateway Annual Meeting Thursday Night
Agenda Includes Elections, Open Discussions, Catered Reception,
and Award for Silver
|Gateway Plaza’s newly renovated outdoor seating area and play space
On Thursday evening, the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA) will host its annual meeting in the auditorium of P.S. 276, at 55 Battery Place. The event will include the yearly election of executive board members, a catered reception, and an award ceremony honoring State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. GPTA president Glenn Plaskin says, “this past year has been an incredibly active and productive one. We led a successful campaign to protect our pets, so that tenants can
|Gateway Plaza Tenants Association president Glenn Plaskin
have any dog or cat of their choice. We also pushed forward on our initiative to pressure the landlord for new heating and air conditioning units and new electric meters, both of which we have been told to expect to have installed before next winter.” Mr. Plaskin added that, “according to our 2012 survey, polling 761 tenants, 42 percent want new windows. The landlord is now in the process of collecting estimates for the replacement of all windows.” Finally, he said, “the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association was also on hand to give tenants updates and support during Hurricane Sandy.”
Topics of discussion at the Thursday meeting are expected to include emergency measures to mitigate extreme weather events, like Hurricane Sandy; a projected schedule for replacement of windows, electric meters, and climate control units; inaccurate electric bills; a planned no-smoking policy within 100 feet of building entrances; upcoming replacement of carpet and wallpaper in common areas; the pending installation of Citi Bike share kiosks; and rent increases for non-stabilized tenants, in some cases in excess of 15 percent.
Among the community leaders and elected officials who have been invited are Mr. Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron, City Council member Margaret Chin, Borough President candidate Julie Menin, U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler, City Council candidate Jenifer Rajkumar, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Community Board 1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes.
State Assembly Speaker
The event will begin at 6pm, with hors d’oeuvres and refreshments from Merchants River House. At 7pm, the GPTA will present Mr. Silver with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on behalf of Gateway Plaza tenants. “For the last two decades,” Mr. Plaskin said, “no elected official has done more to enhance the quality of life for Gateway residents than Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, most notably leading the negotiations for the renewal of our rent stabilization agreement, signed in 2009 and lasting until 2020.”
Following the awards ceremony, there will be an open discussion of all issues of interest to Gateway residents. The evening will conclude with the election of new GPTA executive board members.
All Gateway residents are invited, but those planning to attend are requested to e-mail an R.S.V.P. to GPlazaTA@gmail.com
photos by Robert Simko
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, awarded for his heroic efforts in enhancing our quality of life in Battery Park City
Welcome to GPTA.org, the online home of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association.
We are committed to working together to build and maintain a high quality of life in our community, in every possible way, for the tenants of Gateway Plaza.
Please click around the site to read the latest Gateway news, engage with fellow Gateway community members, and contact the tenants association. And please, don’t forget to join GPTA!
We invite and encourage ALL Gateway residents to join the GPTA, as our very existence depends upon the participation of the tenant population. Indeed, the larger our membership, the greater our power and influence. So we encourage all of our Gateway neighbors to join us in supporting and participating in the activities of the GPTA. Let your voice join others toward the betterment of our community!
You can always turn to the GPTA when there are issues which you feel affect Gateway Plaza or the entire Battery Park City community. The GPTA will log in issues that are recurring or “global,” and then bring them to the management’s attention. The GPTA is committed to addressing any and all issues.
The GPTA was created in 1982 to respond to tenant-related issues in Gateway Plaza, the largest residential complex in Battery Park City. Over the last 30 years, the GPTA has accomplished a variety of goals, including negotiating long-term rent-stabilization agreements with the landlord, thereby preserving Gateway as a family-friendly residential community for people with diverse incomes.
Click around the site to learn more!
SLIDESHOW: Gateway and Battery Park
Downtown resources for GPTA tenants