At Knickerbocker Village, a Heated Discussion About Sandy

.Mary Reinholz Wednesday’s meeting.

Heat and electricity is once again warming a formerly flooded basement in Knickerbocker Village, but some of the 100 tenants who met there Wednesday night continued to express fury and frustration over what they said was mismanagement in the wake of Sandy.

A little over a month after Sandy struck the 1,590-unit housing complex, power has been restored but telephones are still down for many of the 3,500 people who live in the modestly priced rentals.

Before the meeting, a 79-year-old resident named Nettie fumed about Verizon’s failure to restore service to her land line. “I’ve got nothing — it’s back and forth with them and then nothing,” she told The Local. Other tenants complained of slow garbage pickup.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the offices of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Councilmember Margaret Chin along with 20 out of about 72 elected representatives from the dozen 13-story buildings.

Bob Wilson, a leader in the Knickerbocker Village Tenants Association, moderated.

.Mary Reinholz Holiday lights at KV.

Mr. Wilson, 72, a Marine during the Vietnam war, excoriated the complex’s on-site managers for their unpreparedness and their lack of a contingency plan for Sandy’s devastation. He urged tenants to make their future demands known to the current owners, Knickerbocker Village, Inc., part of Area Property Partners, an international real estate investment fund that was a co-developer of the Time Warner Center in midtown Manhattan.

“We need to be more proactive so that we can mitigate a disaster like this from happening again. And it will happen again,” he warned, calling on tenants to organize building by building and rally for such improvements as storm proofing in the buildings’ basements.

“You tell them what you want and we’ll deal with it,” Mr. Wilson thundered, reminding fellow residents that the Tenants Association had a history of being adversarial. He pointed to a rent strike in 1934 as well as a successful 2007 lawsuit that staved off an effort by the complex’s previous owners and the state to dissolve the tenants’ protections against deregulation.

Several tenants had talked about a rent strike before a public meeting was held with various government officials and tenants at P.S. 1 on Henry Street last month, “but that fizzled out quickly,” Mr. Wilson said in a telephone conversation. He noted that Mr. Silver had called for the meeting, which drew respentatives from FEMA.

“The residents of Knickerbocker Village suffered terribly through weeks in cold and darkness,” Mr. Silver told The Local. “That is why I asked the owner of Knickerbocker not to charge rent for the days that tenants were without essential services. A representative of the owners assured the residents at a public meeting I convened that that they will not be responsible for paying rent on those days and I will continue to press the owner to fullfill that commitment.”

James Simmons, vice president of Knickerbocker Village, Inc. and a representative for Area Property Partners, said he had talked to Mr. Silver prior to the Nov. 13 meeting and agreed to the proposed rent decrease. But he insisted it was up to New York State’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal to specify the terms. That agency could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wilson told tenants to be “very careful” in asking for rent rebates, noting that Knickerbocker Village is a not-for-profit limited dividend entity, and its expenses cannot exceed its revenues otherwise the state of New York can madate rent increases and even deregulation under Article 4 of a private housing finance law.

Mr. Simmons said his company could do nothing about disrupted phone service. (Yesterday, The Times reported that in Lower Manhattan, 95 percent of Verizon’s traditional network was destroyed, and it likely wouldn’t be repaired until the end of January.) He also denied a press report suggesting he had apologized for the company’s performance.

“I was apologetic about the lack of communication with the residents but we were there from day one,” he said. “I was there personally from day one and worked 24 hours a day with over 100 boiler professionals, electricians and plumbers. We scoured the country to find generators and temporary boilers.”