Toxic irritants used to clean 1000 Jefferson in Hoboken?

11/14/2012 Update:

Wow – this is freaky, and a scary concern for dog owners living at 1000 Jefferson Street during the “cleanup” from Hurricane Sandy.

One resident discovered:

“Our pets are starting to have severe allergic reactions. We haven’t heard any offering of help from Gables other than providing the list of chemicals being used during the clean up. It’s toxic, it’s hazardous, it’s a skin irritant.

Another possibility is that the irritant is outside the building somewhere in the surrounding area. Please let us know if anyone else is witnessing the same thing uptown.”

Oh boy – this is not good! Hope the dogs get well soon!

Hoboken residents still upset after Sandy at 1000 Jefferson

11/11/2012 Update:

Another resident chimes in about their supposed woes at 1000 Jefferson Street – along with some reference to last year…

“The people who are in charge of this property have no business managing a rental complex. They all think that their only job is to collect rent. They have never cared for the safety of the residents. This has been an ongoing problem with this management team from day one.

What I find appalling about their response, in addition to claiming that they have done and are doing everything they can to ensure our safety and well-being throughout this entire situation, is that they continue to claim that all the damage from the storm and subsequent events were unforeseeable. That is just absolutely not true. The same person who posted the video that you used in your article about our building that showed the flooding after Hurricane Sandy also has a video taken from the same perspective after Hurricane Irene last year.”

“I think this video from Irene indicates gross negligence with regards to the building management’s handling of Sandy. The video shows flooding on the Madison side of the building as well as the ShopRite, but shows there was no flooding on the Jefferson side. I live on the Jefferson side of the building. The Jefferson Street side of the building doesn’t seem to flood as easily and I did not see any flooding or damage on this side from Irene. I can’t see the Madison side from my apartment, so I didn’t see what was happening on Madison and the office staff never let anyone know about it afterwards. This video proves that they knew about severe issues on the Madison side, which I am sure impacted their retail spaces on that side of the building. I never received any communication about this after Irene. The same management team here for Irene was here for Sandy, so they cannot claim ignorance. They should have prepared the building and communicated to residents that there was a serious potential for flooding in this building given what they experienced with Irene on the Madison side. From my perspective, Irene passed over Hoboken with very little impact. Had I known in advance about the flooding that occurred around the corner during Irene, which was a much less severe storm, I would have made different arrangements for Sandy. I’m sure that had the rest of the residents of this building been made aware, that there wouldn’t have been so many cars left in the ground floor parking garage. Now I know and have a totaled car to show for it, along with a majority of the other residents of this building.

Not only did they not communicate the risk of flooding, but they took no action to physically secure the building before the storm. They didn’t bother to board up any windows or sandbag the ground level entrances prior to Sandy’s arrival. They had no one on site during the storm, unlike a lot of other buildings. To be fair, given the magnitude of the storm damage, I’m not sure that those measures would have helped, but the point is that they didn’t even try. How can they say that they care about the residents’ safety, when they made no effort to take any preventative measures ahead of this storm? On top of the lack of concern before the storm, the residents didn’t hear from them for days after the storm and the fire.

Finally, I think on Thursday last week, a member of the office staff made the rounds to tell anyone left in the building that the fire alarm system was not working and that residents should leave. Of course, without a car and without working mass transit, this wasn’t exactly feasible. They didn’t have a solution to this problem either. Gables also said they wouldn’t assume responsibility for the building or resident safety under these conditions. The same person also mentioned how “understanding” Gables was of the situation since they were extending the due date for rent. They then later followed that up with an email telling all residents that they would not be held responsible if we stayed and something bad happened, the Force Majeure email referenced in your article, and then a separate email about full rent being due by the 11th. Of course, throughout all of this they assumed that residents could magically receive electronic communications with powerless devices.

Gables eventually sent in their disaster recovery expert, Terry. From what I have seen, he has done a great job along with the maintenance guy, Matt, trying to get things back up and running. They got a generator hooked up last Saturday so that we would have lights on in the hallways and stairwells after 5 days in darkness. Their efforts should not be overlooked just because the management team is arrogant and incompetent. From the email in the article, it sounds like there are other maintenance team members that should not be commended, but instead sent packing for their lack of respect and compassion for the residents here.

From the other articles you posted on this issue and the comments, it sounds like many other apartment companies in the area were much faster than Gables to respond to the needs of their residents. I have friends in the southeast, and they say that Gables is considered a well-known and reputable company there. Their HQ is in Atlanta. Have you considered sharing your articles and information with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle, or other Atlanta media outlets? It would appear that Gables is starting to get uncomfortable about the local negative exposure, but they still don’t seem to understand that they are wrong and that trying to justify their so-called position continues to aggravate the situation. Instead of sending these ridiculous emails, they should recognize that they owe us all an apology and at the very least, a reduction in rent and parking this month. Below is the latest email we have received from management.

Thank you again for bringing this to everyone’s attention. Maybe all this negative publicity will help Gables see the error of their ways and inspire them to take corrective action. And maybe if this Hoboken administration spent less time and money worrying about bike lanes, they could have instead spent that time and money trying to fix the infrastructure problems that could have prevented this type of damage from occurring in the first place. I’m not holding my breath for either.

Sincerely,
1000 Jefferson Resident

Non-Hoboken fiction: 1000 Jefferson endures real nightmare

11/8/2012:

Should tenants have to pay rent when the building’s management deems the building unsafe?

During the disaster and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Hoboken experienced massive property loss and trauma.

Many people lost their entire first-floor and lower level apartments, some people lost their cars, and tens of thousands of people were displaced or without power for more than a week. You know the area around the ShopRite is a treacherous place to live any time of the year because of the tendency to flood.

You’d think that the property owners who rent around there would be caring and delicate with the tenants during tough times.

But did you know that the folks at Upper Grand – 1000 Jefferson not only suffered the damage and displacement associated with the storm – but the building’s management company, Gables, added insult to injury this week with its various and varying notices to the building’s residents.

Does Gables care more about RENT than quality of life?

Below is a RIDICULOUS timeline of insensitivity and greed as reported by a resident of 1000 Jefferson. Would you live here?:

  • The weekend before the storm, a standard hurricane notice was issued. The packet included tips on dealing with a lack of power and instructions to secure patio furniture and keep windows closed.
  • On Monday night, the Hudson River rushed by the building on both sides, up to five feet on Madison street, flooding the bottom floor garage, totaling more than 150 cars. As the cars filled with water, gasoline mixed with the sewage water and pooled in the garage where it stood three to four feet high in some places. Many residents called 911 to report a very strong gasoline smell in the building, as high up as the 6th floor. Power was cut to the building at 9:12pm. No emergency personnel showed up that night. Emergency lights failed to illuminate and it is possible this is when the fire alarm stopped working as well.
  • On Tuesday at 1pm, Gables emailed (though it’s unclear how many people had battery power left to check email) an alert that the building had no power, no water, and residents were not to leave their apartments. Those people not already in the building were not to return.
  • Three hours later, Gables “strongly urged” residents to evacuate to the Wallace School shelter on 11th street. This is the first time the building instructed its residents NOT TO OCCUPY THE BUILDING.
  • On Tuesday night, a car caught fire in the gasoline-filled garage. At least one resident pulled the fire alarm, but nothing happened. No emergency lighting was on and the fire panels were apparently inoperable. Gables has since described this incident as a “small electrical fire” and denies that the fire panels were inoperable at any time.
  • Wednesday morning, Gables sent another notice urging residents not to return. Three hours later, another instruction was issued NOT to return to the building or Hoboken.
  • Thursday morning, Gables sent an email admitting that emergency lighting was not working and fire panels had been checked and were “now” working. Then the bold face legal notice held its own paragraph: “If any resident chooses not to evacuate, Gables Residential Services, Inc, 1000 Jefferson Apartments, their parents, subsidiaries and affiliated companies; and their partners; and their respective directors, officers, employees, agents and representatives; assume no liability for any injury or damage until residents are notified that it is safe to return.”
  • Later Thursday, Gables sends two more notices urging residents to evacuate and not return to the building for any reason. After three days with no lights in the building, Gables hires private security to patrol the dark hallways and garage.
  • On Friday, Gables sends a helpful reminder that all residents can pay rent, in full, online if they are currently displaced and away from their checkbooks. And, because Gables knows its residents are struggling, there will be a six day grace period.
  • On Saturday, partial power was restored to the building through a generator, allowing emergency lights to be turned on. Excess power was routed to select apartments. Gables does something right.
  • Full power from the city was restored to the building Monday night – November 5th.
  • Gables maintains that residents owe their full amount of rent, including parking fees and amenity fees, despite instructing residents to evacuate an unsafe building.

Tuesday, October 30th

One of the first emails to instruct residents to evacuate on Tuesday, October 30th:

“We strongly urge residents of the building that stayed in Hoboken through the storm to move into a shelter temporarily. The Wallace School at 11th and Willow is currently accepting Hoboken residents. There is no confirmation of when power will be restored to the building. The link below has the power updates.

http://www.pseg.com/info/media/news.jsp

There is an Emergency Operations Center in the City Hall building where you can get information and updates on the Hoboken community. Also please be sure to take photos and contact your insurance company if you have any personal property damage.

As far as we know access to Hoboken will open back up at 6pm. Please be safe if you venture out!
1000 Jefferson Management Team

Wednesday, October 31st

The legal letter both sent to us on email and read to us on our phones:

“Attention 1000 Jefferson Residents:

Due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, 1000 Jefferson continues to experience flooding, standing water, loss of power and inactive emergency lighting. The fire panels have been checked and are in working condition at this time. In light of the combination of these circumstances we recommend that residents seek alternative shelter during the prolonged power outage.

If any resident chooses not to evacuate, Gables Residential Services, Inc, 1000 Jefferson Apartments, their parents, subsidiaries and affiliated companies; and their partners; and their respective directors, officers, employees, agents and representatives; assume no liability for any injury or damage until residents are notified that it is safe to return.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will communicate any change in status via emails and text communications. You may receive a recorded call with details asking for you to opt-in to receive emergency notifications via your mobile device. If you approve, please accept the opt-in invitation.

As always, if you have a life-threatening situation please call 9-1-1 immediately.

On behalf of the management team, we thank you for your patience and hope this message finds you safe.

Gables Residential Management Team

Thursday, November 1st

The friendly email reminding us to pay rent on time, since you know, we weren’t busy doing anything else:

“1000 Jefferson Residents:

Based on the current conditions at 1000 Jefferson we understand that you may have some questions about rent payments and accessing our online payment system. We want to assure you that we will be available to assist you in receiving and processing full rent payments. Given these conditions we will not assess any late fees until 11/11/2012.

Payments can be made by going on line to Gables.com. This can be used by residents that have current accounts set up and for anyone that needs to set up a new account to pay though the Gables.com portal. Should you experience difficulties with payment transactions on Gables Portal, please email 1000jefferson@gables.com

Or residents may mail or drop off rental payments to the 1000 Jefferson leasing office:

1000 Jefferson #226
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Instructions for accessing Gables Gateway:

Gables Gateway Login

The Gateway login page can be accessed by clicking on the link in the top right corner on Gables.com (http://gables.com). If you already have an account then you can enter your User ID and Password to access Gateway. If you do not have an account yet, click on the Don’t have and account? link to set up your account.”

Friday, November 2nd

My Response to this email, which went unanswered:

“Dear person at Gables who wrote this,

This is in poor taste. There is no other way to put it. I’ve been back to the building multiple times over the last few days, and the maintenance crew and other employees are on site and doing a good job. I don’t want to take anything away from them. But someone in corporate or local or whoever is responsible for this email needs to know this was a bad idea.

A few days ago, the residents in your building received a legal notice that 1000 Jefferson would not take any responsibility for anything that happened over this week. We got it read to us on our phones and it got sent to us through email. It was in bold type. The Gables company (and its sister-companies, subsidiaries, parent, etc.) refuses to take any responsibility for anything in the building during trying times, but also expects us to be able to pay rent on time (or six days later than usual, in this case).

The current state of the building is a disaster. There is trash in the hallways, refrigerators have not been emptied, there is still a lingering gasoline smell, a constant refuse smell, security was only hired 24 hours ago, and just about EVERYONE had their cars totaled in the garage. I spoke to someone who evacuated to Syracuse with a new baby, today. Other people are in West Orange, further south, Pennsylvania, or New York City. Most people are not making their way back to the building to check on it like I am.

Those of us who are in stable locations are likely living out of suitcases. Some people are going to work, others can’t. Power has not been restored to most of the area. I doubt anyone is just picking up and leaving. Every resident will likely come back to their apartments at some point. If they are planning on moving out, like I know a few of them already are, they won’t do it under cover of night.

There are probably more than a few residents who have had to lay out more cash than they’re used to in order to just get around or to find a warm, dry, possibly powerless place for their kids to sleep. Asking them to pay their rent before assessing “any late fees” is just tactless and shows a lack of compassion or understanding of the situation.

I won’t complain about the non-existent warnings about the garage flooding, nor the lack of management’s presence the day after the surge, nor the fact that there were multiple people drinking and smoking just feet from a gasoline-filled garage, nor the fact that NONE of the packages on the ground level were moved to #226 prior to the storm, nor the fact that the building just cannot seem to tell my downstairs neighbors that having multiple loud parties past midnight during the week is a breach of their rental contract. Nope. Just that this email was in poor taste.

We will eventually get our power, we will eventually get our lives back, and Gables will eventually get its rent. With interest rates being so low right now, I can’t imagine that the carry on the rent is even meaningful.

Give us a break. Until there are actually residents inhabiting the building, I don’t think you need to worry about the rent checks coming in.”

Wednesday, November 7th

On November 7th, after being ignored for a few days, I wrote this email:

“I’m not sure who is checking this email address because I have yet to get a response from anyone despite sending multiple letters to this address. So I’m sorry I can’t address this to anyone personally.

Can you please give me some guidance on what portion of our rent we should pay this month? A number of residents met in the building last night to discuss this very issue and I was a little frustrated to hear that nobody had heard back from management about this topic or many others.

1000 Jefferson is certainly entitled to rent from its residents this month, the only question is how much. I believe NJ state law advises that a building must be deemed habitable in order for the landlord to collect rent legally. Given that Gables sent us a notice declaring “Force Majeure” on Wednesday of last week and urging us to not inhabit the building, I believe some sort of adjustment is probably necessary. Not to mention, a lack of fire alarm panels, emergency lighting, and other safety services, especially during a time when the garage was effectively filled with sewage and gasoline while a car caught fire does not seem like a habitable property to me.

Also, I was very disturbed to run into the morning maintenance meeting in the garage today and hear them mocking the residents. Two maintenance workers who are apparently staying in the building were drinking liquor in the common room last night during our residents meeting, and when asked, claimed to also be residents. This morning, those same guys were laughing it up in front of the whole crew about how the residents are whining about having to pay rent and claiming to be “big time lawyers”. Everyone on the maintenance crew got a good laugh out of that.

This shows a major lack of respect and compassion from the maintenance crew. I understand many of them have been working very hard to put the building back together. I have praised them myself whenever I see them on site working long hours for 8 days straight now. Specifically, Matt has been nothing but helpful, going out of his way to help residents before and after the storm. But I’m not sure why the rest of them have a problem with the residents who have all been displaced from their homes for that same amount of time, many with small children and infants, banding together and discussing their frustrations and options. I’m also not sure what the maintenance crew has to do with collecting rent or the lack of responses we’re getting from Gables Headquarters. These are already stressful times, and pitting maintenance against residents is only going to make it worse.

Finally, I’d like a response to this letter. The residents’ number one complaint last night was that corporate is not addressing their concerns. One woman relayed that her smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are not working (and one was ripped off the wall) and maintenance has yet to fix that. When she complains to management, she gets a promise that it will be fixed in one to two days. Those days have passed. You received a letter from me complaining about the lack of tact your company showed by sending out a rent reminder (How to pay rent on time if you are displaced from your apartment!) the day after that Force Majeure notice came out. I did not receive a reply to that. I shared it with a number of residents who apparently also wrote letters. They didn’t get replies either. I wanted to give you a chance to respond to that and other complaints before escalating our concerns. Hoboken is a very small community, yet its covered by a number of popular media outlets and blogs. I don’t want to be spiteful, but contacting the media is probably going to be our next step if we don’t hear something back from you soon. The lights might be on again, but your residents are still in the dark.”

…which earned me a phone call from Lori Godby at Gables. Lori is the voice behind the Gables email address, she also recently won an award for being a Piller of the Industry. I summarized the phone call for other residents here…

“Got a call from Gables today. Ms. Godby. Full rent is due. They think of the building as their family. The building was inhabitable the entire time, despite their urging to leave immediately on Wednesday and don’t come back until its safe. Their attorneys have determined that they legally have to charge a full amount of rent. It is not their fault that the building is in this condition, so they shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for lost days of rent. They’re very sorry for the two maintenance guys living in the model apartment who decided it was hilarious that we were concerned about our rights and options. Apparently they’ve received nothing but compliments from the building’s tenants on how fast everything is coming together. The reason for the “Don’t forget to pay your rent on time email!” was because “literally” 50 families contacted them wanting to know just how they could get their rent checks in on time. The car-fire in the garage was a “very small electrical fire” and was never a danger to anyone in the building. They can’t respond to emails because they are inundated (I guess with compliments?) with other emails. Her decision to call me back had nothing to do with me threatening to go to the press.”

Look, maybe getting a rent abatement was a longshot. But to be told the building was safe and that we should have evacuated at the same time is frustrating and, in my opinion, underhanded. Sadly, this is probably what the building has to look forward to for years to come.

Then the residents all received this email, reminding us that we owed a full month’s rent:

“1000 Jefferson Residents:

We have been receiving questions regarding November rent and what is currently due. In the case of natural disaster situations, rent abatements are not customary. As a reminder, the due date for November rent has been extended to November 11, 2012 to allow extra time to residents to pay rent online, mail-in or bring to the office.

The onsite team is in the office and available to assist with any questions you may have.

1000 Jefferson Management Team

Which pushed me to write this email:

“Hi Lori,

Rent abatements during natural disasters may not be customary, but failure to provide basic services do customarily require rent abatements. I just talked to a neighbor who pulled the fire alarm Tuesday night during what you call a “small, electrical fire” and the rest of the building is calling a car fire in a gasoline filled garage. When she pulled it, nothing happened. Also, emergency lighting failed to stay lit for any amount of time. These are both violations of building codes. Obviously, these are going to be reported.

Gables can do the right thing, just like many apartments in New York City are doing, and waive a portion of rent during the affected days, or the company can do the wrong thing and fight its own customers on this issue which it will most likely lose. There is also the court of public opinion. I have already contacted an interested media source, but I don’t have to submit the residents’ polished stories to them, yet. Even if Gables collects a few extra hundred dollars from its residents, the searchable article and negative publicity will surely impact Hoboken’s opinion of your company. I’m sure you already knew that.

This isn’t even about the rent issue for me. It’s about the way you have personally responded to this disaster. You have not taken responsibility for the failures that actually were the company’s fault. You cannot reconcile the fact that Gables issued a Force Majeure notice attempting to absolve itself from any liability during the week but also maintains that Gables provided a safe, habitable living space throughout the same week. Your company’s OWN ADVICE was to leave the building because it was unsafe. This is mind-boggling, not only to me and many other residents, but also to your on-site employees.

At the very least, please explain to me why I should pay my parking fee for this time period, given that I still cannot access the leased space I am paying for. I want to hear the official Gables response to this.

While you are sorting through your emails, responding to the multiple compliments you are constantly receiving tonight, the other residents and I will be braving the winter’s first major storm, praying that the fire alarm will work and the emergency lights will go on if necessary. And when the storm is over, we’ll be rushing to pay our rent before incurring late fees.”

Would you tolerate this BS if you lived anywhere?