Sunday, November 18, 2012

Landlord Accused of Gross Negligence in Preparing for Sandy

Another Financial District landlord was hit with a lawsuit by residents who are furious that they won't get back into their luxury apartments until March 1, 2013. In a class-action case filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, residents have accused the owners and managers of adjacent buildings at 2 Gold and 201 Pearl Street of gross negligence in preparing for the storm and dealing with the havoc it wrought.

They said the 9-year-old buildings were not prepared "not with even one sandbag,” even though they are located in a flood zone where evacuation was supposed to be mandatory.

The building's owner/manager, T.F. Cornerstone Inc., said more than 7 million gallons of salt water from the East River gushed into both basements so fast that it rose 39 feet high, knocking over a 30,000 gallon tank of diesel fuel.

In a letter to residents, Cornerstone said the buildings were designed to withstand a 100-year storm but the "1,000 year storm" was beyond their control, destroying the two 59-story buildings' electrical and ventilation systems, its elevators, sprinklers and heating and hot water systems.

Rents range from $8,000 to $10,000/month for a one-bedroom apartment. The residents said the oil fumes permeated both structures, forcing the superintendent to wear a gas mask when he walked through the buildings right after the storm. Although Cornerstone said the vapors are dissipating, the lawsuit said the smell permeates clothes and furnishings and will make the 849 apartments uninhabitable even after services are restored early next year.

They also said some residents who returned to their apartments found they had been burglarized. The units are located south of the Brooklyn Bridge between Wall Street and the South Street Seaport museum.

Another Financial District resident, Jonathan Stark, has sued his condominium board and the company that manages his 458-unit building, charging fraud and gross negligence. In the first Sandy-related residential lawsuit to hit Manhattan Supreme Court, Stark is demanding $35 million in damages for himself and other condo owners in the 37-story Greenwich St. building. He claims the directors of Greenwich Club Residences and Cooper Square Realty have refused to pursue insurance claims on behalf of the owners for damages to the building's common areas.