Apthorp poor conditions complaints mount

By Amy Tennery | December 16, 2010 03:56PM

Conditions at the Apthorp are continuing to deteriorate, several tenants in the venerated Upper West Side condominium-conversion have told The Real Deal, and a visit by a reporter confirmed that the environment appears to be far from desirable — and, in some cases, far from safe.

Their complaints come just days after an article was published in the New York Times, detailing the trials of 95-year-old tenant and Holocaust survivor Irene Front, who said that numerous maintenance requests — including complaints of rampant rodent problems — went overlooked for weeks.

After months of back-and-forth between residents and the building sponsor and management, other tenants say that unsafe construction zones in the building, at 2211 Broadway between 78th and 79th streets, are easily accessible, some common areas are left with detritus and punctured walls and ceilings, while exposed cables abound, all of which The Real Deal saw this morning (see photos above).

In numerous public spaces, there was accumulated paint dust, which residents say is distressing, given that their independently hired environmental consultant Olmstead Environmental Services has recorded lead paint levels upwards of six times the acceptable EPA limit in past tests. Residents say that paint dust there is not properly contained, and The Real Deal noticed a film of the dust in hallways and stairwells.

An officer with the Apthorp Tenants Association said that “past tests have [shown] astronomical levels of lead paint dust” in common areas and that existing conditions in the older building, such as asbestos, have further complicated the construction work.

A spokesperson for the Apthorp contended that all “local regulations regarding lead paint and asbestos removal at the Apthorp” are being met. Additionally, the spokesperson noted that “two licensed environmental consultants” are overseeing work there, and that that “represents an additional level of scrutiny and security beyond what is required.”

But other problems lurk at the building.

One unoccupied sixth-floor apartment, which construction workers were instructed to keep locked, per a posted sign, was left unlocked, with no covered plastic blocking the main entrance. In another area where construction is taking place, this time in the basement, a sign is posted warning residents to stay out, but the area is neither locked nor blocked off with plastic, which residents say potentially poses a hazard to young children.

In a later interview with The Real Deal, another spokesperson said that while there are exposed wires in the basement, access is sealed off there and trespassers are removed. However a reporter had no problem walking in, as workers at the building waved hello, rather than ushering her out.

A spokesperson for the building said that locking the door to basement construction could constitute a fire safety risk, although she couldn’t say for sure. She also said that the wires she saw in the basement are not live.

The construction, the spokesperson said, “is being done in a first-class manner.”

But several Apthorp residents have told The Real Deal that the management company and sponsor have allowed conditions to degrade throughout the legendary Upper West Side building, while alleged unsafe construction practices continue.

And while Front’s story was told in the Times, several other Apthorp residents claim that her case is one of many that are part of a pattern of neglect by management-contracted workers, during the building’s condo conversion.

“We’re seeing rodent problems in several apartments in each of the wings,” said an officer of the Apthorp Tenants Association, who did not want to be identified by name.

One of the spokespersons for the Apthorp declined to comment on extermination issues, but did confirm that a company known as “Assured Environments” has been used “to treat apartments and common areas two times per month and on an as-needed basis.”

A lead operating officer from Assured Environments said that he had received no complaints from tenants there.

The rodent claims come after well over a year of documented complaints about alleged unsafe construction activity at the building.

In March, State Senator Thomas Duane, Assembly member Linda Rosenthal and City Council member Gale Brewer, sent a letter to Andrew Ratner, vice president of building manager Broadwall Management, detailing many of the residents’ concerns regarding common area maintenance and construction (see letter below). Among the alleged hazards cited in the letter are “exposed electrical wiring and cables,” “improper dust clean-up and containment,” “defective concrete” and a lack of fire extinguishers in hallways.

In a letter dated April 14 (also below), Ratner responded that the management company had subsequently “addressed” the “items identified in [the] letter.” But the photos taken today by The Real Deal at the Apthorp show unlocked construction zones, which are not only potentially hazardous, but easily accessible.

Even so, the push-and-pull between Apthorp rental tenants and the management team has a long history. (Marketing team Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group was unable to immediately provide a comment on the controversy.)

As The Real Deal reported in October 2009, tenants were concerned about the sponsor’s work on the building after lead paint dust that was allegedly scattered during construction aggravated some residents’ asthma.

Tony Smith, an officer with the Apthorp Tenants Association, said that while rental residents there are not anti-condo conversion, they are riled over how conditions at the building have been maintained.

“We’re not opposed to [the sponsor] successfully completing the condo conversion,” Smith said, “[but] do it according to Leviticus: follow the rules… protect the environment of the building.”

Apthorp letters