Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mold Forces Evictions At Town's First Mixed Income Residential Development

And No One Thought To Ask, "Where Were The Town Of Hempstead Building Inspectors?"

Its a terrible thing. Forced out of your home -- or, in this case, your rather expensive rental apartment -- because the entire complex has been overrun by mold.

We're not talking Jello here. This is the black, moist, yucky stuff that makes you cough, choke, and, in some cases, deathly ill.

Things are so bad at Archstone in Westbury -- built on land that was once part of the Roosevelt Raceway property, and in the shadows of the Covanta incinerator, which burns the Town's garbage -- that the entire development, housing hundreds, will have to be evacuated.

Remediation, if such a thing is possible with invasive mold and serious "water intrusion" problems, is expected to take a year or more.

Sure, the folks at Archstone screwed up big time. Shoddy construction. Bad material. Clearly something -- or many things -- amiss in the building of this now mold-infested facility.

But what of the culpability of the Town of Hempstead?

Where were the Building Inspectors? Aren't there codes on the books to prevent just such disasters? Was there no enforcement (a rhetorical question)?

Who issued permits? Who signed off on the work? Who issued the Certificates of Completion and/or the Certificates of Occupancy?

Who will be held accountable? Who? Who? Who?

Town spokesman, Mike Deery, expressed disappointment, but nowhere did he, on behalf of a Supervisor who now wants an 8% raise for the great work she's done in Hempstead Town, accept responsibility.

Somebody messed up here. Okay, quite a few people messed up here. The developer. Maybe architects. Possibly engineers. Perhaps the builders. Certainly, the folks responsible for the official stamp of approval, from initial variance to C of O -- the people whose government enterprise at Town Hall is so old that even its mold has mold -- the elected and the anointed at the Town of Hempstead.

There's gonna be one heck of a lawsuit, and a whole bunch of people looking for apartment space in Hempstead Town -- legal and otherwise!
- - -
Driven from home
Mold and mildew force hundreds of people in Westbury community to leave their apartments

BY ZACHARY R. DOWDY zachary.dowdy@newsday.com Staff writer Bill Mason contributed to this story

Hundreds of residents of a brand-new luxury complex in Westbury - home to New York Jets players and low-income residents alike - were told last night they have four months to leave the mold- and mildew-plagued buildings, which residents said have sickened them with respiratory ailments.

The sprawling, 21-building Archstone Westbury community on Corporate Drive, a year-old complex once viewed as a promising mixed-income housing experiment, is being cleared of all residents in more than 400 apartments in the wake of reports of what officials called "pervasive water intrusion problems."

"Archstone must therefore serve formal lease termination notices to all residents, who will be required to relocate by March 31, 2008," read the company's news release, a version of which was given to residents by officials who went door to door last night.

"Reconstruction, which will take approximately one year or more to complete, is expected to begin as early as April 2008," it continued. "Archstone-Smith recently discovered extensive water intrusion, in which water has seeped in through the exterior skin of the property, and conducted an in-depth investigation to assess the extent of the problem."

Residents of the three-story, brick-faced units in the gated community near The Source mall called the situation outrageous and disgusting and said they've endured leaky windows and grotesque mold growing right in their homes.

Katie Coleman, 27, the wife of Jets defensive end Kenyon Coleman, said she and her 2- and 3-year-old children developed nasty coughs soon after she moved into the complex in March, so she got the air in the home tested and complained to management, which she said did not address the problem. But she got a clue that something was really amiss when she saw a massive mold mushrooming on a windowsill in her three-bedroom apartment. She moved out in August.

"I couldn't clear my throat and my kids had coughs," she said. "Archstone said there wasn't anything wrong, but I had water damage in my apartment and my children were sick."

Archstone officials said they recently realized the problem affected all 20 apartment buildings, where regular rents are $2,400 for a one-bedroom apartment to $3,400 for a three-bedroom apartment, and the clubhouse. The affordable housing units, assigned through a lottery, make up about 20 percent of the complex rent for about a third of the market value.

David Pendery, a spokesman for the Englewood, Colo.-based company, said residents would be given "relocation assistance packages" amounting to a month's rent and another sum of between $1,300 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,900 for a three-bedroom apartment.

He also said that the renovations would take about a year and that the company could not guarantee that each tenant would be able to move back into their units.

In 2003, Archstone-Smith agreed to pay $25 million in damages to 800 tenants of a high-rise complex in Bal Harbour, Fla., for mold problems. The settlement was earmarked to pay for property damage and health-related issues stemming from a mold outbreak.

Town of Hempstead officials said they had high hopes for the complex, which was among the county's first mixed-income housing programs.

"We think this is a serious concern, and we hope that Archstone will take every step to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their tenants at the Westbury location," said Mike Deery, a town spokesman. "Certainly, the town was optimistic and certainly hopeful when it announced that Nassau County's first mixed-income rental housing development was to be built in the Town of Hempstead."

Pendery said Archstone-Smith owns or is an owner in 350 properties across the country, an empire comprising 89,000 units.

Staff writer Bill Mason contributed to this story

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.


  1. The fox built the henhouse at archstone, westbury. And he got away with plasterboard on exterior surfaces that faced the elements and the pressure washers of the maintenance crew. And according to Hempstead Town's Mike Deery, the town didn't inspect the project for constuction materials. The town left that up to the builder, it's a wonder Archstone didn't use cardboard. Notice that the cheshire smile of the supervisor, Kate Murray, is no way to be seen during this affair.

  2. Molds can be very dangerous for all the suburbs in New York. We should be more careful about mold attacks in the towns.

    Manhattan Mold removal