Closed to new windows, Gateway says yes to heaters

BY SAM SPOKONY with JOSH ROGERS  |  It’s starting to look like Gateway Plaza residents won’t be left out in the cold again next winter.

After months of negotiations with elected officials, the Battery Park City Authority and the development’s tenant association, Gateway Plaza’s management announced May 23 that it will install new heating and cooling units throughout the six-building, 1,700-unit complex over the next four months. The management company, Gateway Residential Management L.L.C. — led by the LeFrak Organization, Gateway’s primary leaseholder under the B.P.C.A. — also committed to installing new electrical meters within every unit in the complex.

Those plans will require the installation of about 3,000 Frigidaire heating and cooling units (also known as packaged terminal air conditioners, or PTACs), on top of the several hundred that have already been installed. Many Gateway residents have been demanding the new units to replace their often shoddy, 13-year-old PTACs ever since management failed to keep last year’s promise to have them all installed by the end of 2013.

The city’s Dept. of Housing, Preservation and Development had sued LeFrak over the issue, and as a result, the firm was under orders to provide heat this winter, but it’s unclear how large a role that played in the landlord’s decision to replace the heating units.  

In its announcement, which was sent in a letter to all tenants, Gateway’s management said it expects to begin installing the units in June, and that the process will take “approximately 16 weeks” to complete.

“Upon completion, all PTACs and electrical sub meters in residents’ apartments at Gateway Plaza will have been replaced,” the letter stated.

Downtown Express previously reported that thousands of Gateway residents have suffered with frigid temperatures and absurdly high electric bills, especially this past winter, partially due to their poorly functioning PTACs and 33-year-old electrical meters. The current push for repairs came after a town hall meeting held by State Sen. Daniel Squadron and the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association early in 2013.

However, aside from the new PTACs and electrical meters, an important third element of that push for repairs — new windows throughout the complex — was not a part of Friday’s commitment from Gateway’s management. As this newspaper has also reported, many residents have complained of leaky, unsealed windows that greatly contributed to the shockingly cold temperatures inside their apartments this past winter.

A spokesperson for Gateway’s management did not respond to a request for comment about the window replacements.

In a joint announcement May 23, the G.P.T.A., Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Councilmember Margaret Chin celebrated the management company’s new commitment, while acknowledging that there’s still work to be done.

“This is one very important step for the quality of life and comfort of Gateway residents, and we believe it’s the followup to the town hall we hosted last year,” Squadron told Downtown Express in a phone interview that same day. “We also know that windows remain an important piece of this, so we’re going to continue pushing on that front.”

In a statement released with the joint announcement, Silver also stressed that he is still “committed to ensuring that the windows at the complex are replaced.”

And when asked about his level of faith in this new commitment from Gateway’s management — considering last year’s broken promise — Squadron professed confidence.

“This is a clear definitive announcement, and I don’t see any caveats within it,” said the senator.

In a phone interview also on Friday, May 23, G.P.T.A. President Glenn Plaskin applauded the “collaborative result” reached through the long negotiations with management.

“This initiative is fantastic news for tenants, and we’re hopeful that new PTACs and new submeters will improve living conditions at Gateway,” Plaskin said. “As we know, tenants have suffered, both physically and financially, particularly this past winter, due to conditions that needed improvement. So we’re thankful to the management and to all of our elected representatives for working together on this.”

Meanwhile, the three law firms who are currently engaged in a $100 million class action lawsuit against LeFrak and the B.P.C.A., which seeks damages for the complaints of frigid living conditions and high electric bills at Gateway, did not respond to a request for comment.

One of the lead attorneys on that suit — which was filed in April — is Jenifer Rajkumar, Lower Manhattan’s Democratic district leader and a Gateway resident.

Rajkumar also declined to comment.

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