Legends has obtained a copy of the consent order in the tenants’ association’s lawsuit against the Chetrits (Judith Childs, et. al. vs. Chelsea Dynasty LLC, et. al. and NYC Department of Housing and Preservation). The Tenants’ Association represents approximately 35 of the 98 tenants remaining in the building, and approximately 31 of the 69 remaining units. The tenants association sued, basically, to force the Chetrits to remediate the mold and other hazardous conditions in their apartments (some of which resulted from the recent demolition) and to perform any further construction in accordance with the law (this later mainly focused on the spread of dust). In the settlement, the hotel agreed to various conditions, including:
-the hotel must correct all listed housing violations (including mold, lead paint, fire code, and air shaft) in petitioners apartments and public areas, immediately hazardous violations by June 12, 2012, and hazardous and non-hazardous violations by June 30, 2012
-if the hotel doesn’t correct the violations on time, they can be fined $50-$150 per violation for the immediately hazardous violations, plus $125 per day per violation. (There are correspondingly lesser penalties for the lesser violations)
-mold remediation in petitioners apartments and public areas must be done in accordance with Department of Health guidelines, and must be completed by June 30, 2012
-the hotel must take all necessary steps to eliminate the sources of water leaks into the hotel
-wood platforms and debris must be removed from air shafts by July 15, 2012. Openings in the air shafts must be closed or have ventilation as per code
-an asbestos inspection must be performed, and damaged asbestos insulation must be removed by an asbestos contractor
Demolition and Construction
-plastic sheeting must be used to isolate and enclose demolition areas, and HEPA vacuums and air scrubbers must be used to keep the dust down. Surfaces in work areas must be properly cleaned, the dust removed. Debris must be taken out of the building in sealed containers
-if dust enters the common areas or apartments, the hotel must clean it up immediately (though they don’t have to stop work). HEPA air cleaners must be provided for children and people with respiratory problems
-When work is being performed in the air shafts, the hotel must seal the vents and windows in the apartments affected
-the windows on the top floor must be covered with plastic sheeting during asbestos removal on the roof
-the hotel must obtain the proper permits for all work, and all work must be performed according to law
-72 hours notice must be given before any demolition or construction may begin
-plastic sheeting that blocks emergency exit paths must be removed, and stair doors must be unlocked.
(This correction should be addressed immediately.)
-the hotel must acknowledge receipt of all rent checks and cash them immediately (unless this conflicts with their current or prospective litigation strategy or a Jewish holiday)
-Joseph Chetrit and the Chetrit Group LLC are removed as parties to this proceeding (!?!)
A couple of points are important to note here. For one thing, this settlement only directly affects tenants association members and the few other tenants who joined the lawsuit. For the rest of us, if we have mold or other problems in our apartments, we will presumably still have to dial 311 and deal with the various agencies if management doesn’t take action immediately. The good news is, many tenants have had their mold and other problems corrected in this way (it requires persistence, and sometimes the withholding of rent). The recent asbestos cleanup (made necessary both by Krauss/Elder’s botched removal attempt and the Chetrits’ mishandling of demolition debris) was brought about by tenant activist Arthur Nash calling the DEP, and had nothing to do with this court case at all.
For another thing, as far as we can tell, the Chetrits only agreed to do things that they were required to do by law anyway. So the main effect of this agreement is to take enforcement out of the hands of the various city agencies and put it in the hands of the court. I seriously don’t know if this is better or worse—better, I’m hoping—though enforcing compliance will no doubt involve the further use of lawyers and consequent further expense.
Finally, head honcho Joseph Chetrit and his main corporation, The Chetrit Group, are let completely off the hook! For us, this provision would have been a deal-breaker, both for the reason that Big Joe is the man ultimately responsible for the health-endangering demolition of the hotel, and for the fact that he and The Chetrit Group have the deep pockets. It’s a question for the lawyers as to whether or not this settlement limits individual tenants’ association members’ ability to sue Joseph and his Corp. for damages (such as those related to health problems). -- Ed Hamilton