On Roosevelt Island

Has Manhattan Park Collected Millions in Unauthorized Electric Bills? Part III

Updated 2 years ago David Stone
What's Really Inside Manhattan Park Buildings
What's Really Inside Manhattan Park Buildings
© Roosevelt Island Daily

Last week kicked off with a surprise from Manhattan Park, an almost comical misstep and ended with more evasion and denial but with a dark cloud on the horizon.

It’s the simplest rule. Most of us learn it early. That is, if you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t hide things.

Transparency is the rule for good personal as well as business relations, everything aboveboard and open for all to see.

After many years in business, I get a feeling of dread when I see others I should trust scramble to put up barriers and use misdirection tactics. Dread peaked while I tried to deal straightforwardly with Manhattan Park.

Earlier in this series:

Monday Surprises on Roosevelt Island

After running a business errand to the Post Office on Monday afternoon, I took a walk down Main Street to check on Trellis, closed since September, 2014. Intuition paid off, as explained in this article.

Then, I headed back up the promenade, composing an article to tell readers the good news when, outside my building, I spotted one of our building maintenance people waving at me.

He carried an envelope from the Management Office, and his bosses ordered him to make me sign for it. 

That was a little weird, but in case you are not a Manhattan Park resident, you should know that much of what management does here is weird. They never use names in their notices. Just “management” or “the management,” and the top guy, Michael Kim, is a bit notorious for not speaking to anyone, including the concierges he passes when entering and leaving buildings, and certainly not tenants, most of whom would not recognize him if he stood next to them on an elevator.

So, weird didn’t mean much to me.

The information management sent in its package was nothing special, except in its efforts to make another end run around facts that aren’t consistent with Manhattan Park’s fabricated scheme of defense.

One thing that stood out, however, was a (presumably) inadvertent admission that the complex has been voluntarily out of compliance with its RIOC approved grievance procedure for nearly three years.

I thanked Michael Kim specifically, and asked that, in light of this admission, we begin discussing ways to compensate tenants for having their rights denied during that period. He failed to see the humor. 

If You’re Going to Put On a Show, Make It a Good One 

In spite of the artless dissembling to come, Kim’s cover letter begins with the usual condescension. “Unfortunately,” he writes, “it appears that there are still some misconceptions regarding Sub Metering at Manhattan Park…”

Translation: you haven’t accepted our evasions and half-truths as proof of our innocence.

He then launches into an ill-considered foray of butt-covering by bullet point. Say what you will, he uses Microsoft Word very well.

  • He gets into trouble immediately by attaching a copy of an approved grievance procedure from 1989, but not content to try to find safety there, he writes, “This grievance procedure was utilized until October 1, 2013.” It wasn’t really, as we have shown, but he inadvertently set a firm date when he admits violations of the ground lease began. Three consecutive years of violations, including one that included a mountain of protest, is a heavy liability, and he volunteered it.
  • Kim them segues into  what he calls “Current Grievance Procedures.” His claim is that the “ANNUAL NOTIFICATION OF RIGHTS (HEFPA)” Brian Weisberg handed out on October 2, 2013, replaced the guidelines Manhattan Park agreed to in 1989. Forget for now that that grievance procedure was never put into play or “established” as the ground lease demands. The  problem is that RIOC’s agreement was apparently never sought nor approved. Worse, what Kim refers as a “grievance procedure” is nothing more than a trim “Complaint process.” Here it is in full:

“If you have questions about your electric bill or believe your bill is inaccurate, you should contact Roosevelt Island Associates’ Property Manager at Manhattan Park c/o Grenadier Realty Corp., Managing Agent, 30 River Road, New York, NY 10044 or call the Managing Agent at (212) 759-8660. Your Property Manager will then investigate and respond to your complaint in writing within thirty (30) days of receipt of the complaint. If you are dissatisfied with the response, you may request a review of the outcome by sending management a written or verbal protest within fourteen (14) days from the date of the response from the property manager.”

That’s it, no escalation, no third party arbitration, no protection for tenants. Everything begins and ends in the management office in 30 River Road. I made a point of including the entire procedure because Manhattan Park later claimed that it is “substantially more in depth and detailed than the grievance procedure from 1989.”

While that is clearly untrue, the fact is that Manhattan Park has not lived up to even that limp “complaint process.” Developing this series of articles, we have documented multiple instances in which tenants approached both Kim and Weisberg and never received even the written reply mandated as the first step response.

Going back farther, we have documented cases where tenants contacted Sandy Holden about sub metering issues. (Weisberg replaced Holden about eight years ago before being moved aside to make room for Kim after the disastrous Local Law 11 facade work drove most of the diplomats and families out of Manhattan Park.)

The Holden incidents have even more troubling elements, since they took place at a time when Manhattan Park now says they were implementing the RIOC approved procedure, but none of them resulted in anything more than a brush off. One involved tenant, a lawyer who later moved out, says that no grievance procedure was ever mentioned or offered. 

More of the Same from Manhattan Park

So dazzled with joy over Manhattan Park’s admission of guilt I could barely read the rest of the package, I forced myself to slug through the latest round of evasions and half-truths.

It was not without its funny moments. 

  • In an apparent attempt to position Quadlogic, which reads the meters in Manhattan Park, as the “disinterested third party” arbiter they agreed to but have never set up, Kim claims “Quadlogic is an independent, third party consultant and is not, and never has been, a business partner of Manhattan Park,” then goes on to contradict himself one sentence later: “We are currently under contract with Quadlogic.” When I pointed this out to Kim, he reiterated the claim and put “not” in all caps for emphasis.
  • Responding to questions about Manhattan Park making profits on sub metering, Kim goes to great length to provide information, including Con Edison billing and explaining how it relates to my own bill, documenting the complex’s innocence — for a single recent month, June, 2016. Kim is well aware that five years of records, even in verifiable summary, were requested and is surely well aware of the period most in question. If you haven’t got anything to hide…
  • The rest is routine evasion and denial about crossover billing and multiple readings on billings, except that rather than now take responsibility for grievance handling, as demanded in the ground lease, Manhattan Park now defers everything to Quadlogic or the Public Service Commission, an admission, once again, that there is no established grievance procedure in play in Manhattan Park.

What comes through in a review of all the paperwork and emails submitted by Manhattan Park is what appears to be an attempt to reengineer past behavior to make it look compliant with the ground lease signed with RIOC.

Too much contrary evidence exists for this to work, and it is wholly dependent on tenants, RIOC, Rebecca Seawright and other elected officials being fools. 

Memo to Manhattan Park Management: My mother told me I was born in the morning, but it wasn’t this morning.

A Possible Dark Cloud over Roosevelt Island

Current as well as former tenants have told us that they backed off complaining about Manhattan Park because they feared retribution in the form of rent increases. One said that his family believed that they might get black listed and find locating another apartment in New York permanently impossible.

These are legitimate concerns, but something worse may be in the wind.

Are Manhattan Park’s owners nearing bankruptcy?

This spring, Manhattan Park set up posters illustrating a new design for public spaces in the River Road buildings. Regardless of feelings about the dark design, most residents looked forward to replacements for filthy carpets rarely vacuumed and wallpaper darkened with decades of uncleaned soot.

However clumsily, the project was launched at 20 and 30 River Road. Wallpaper and baseboard linings were torn out. Lighting fixtures were replaced with dangling fixtures, their wires exposed. Promises were made about a piecemeal project that would run in a series of activities from floor to floor. 

But something happened.

Two months ago, all work stopped. Dangling fixtures, untreated walls and carpets smeared with paint have given much of 20 and 30 River Road the look of unmanaged public housing, all summer. Building materials that may have been delivered for the project were removed from the plaza between buildings in July.

Among the most likely reasons for abandoning a project in such a deplorable state of incompletion is a lack of financing. That is, there isn’t enough money to pay for the work that remains.

We don’t know if financial problems are the cause for leaving buildings in these conditions, but it does give us something new to consider.

Tenants may be concerned that a financially strapped company may stop providing even the mediocre services it now delivers. 

Conclusion

In this series, we have done everything we can to expose the problems with sub metering in Manhattan Park and the questionable way they are managed. Faced with an intractable management office, we have gained little ground.

But we believe that the case has been made. Direct dealing with Manhattan Park on a one to one basis seems impossible, given the positions they insist on taking. For that reason, we will be urging RIOC and our elected officials to step in, and in addition, we will begin the search for a class action attorney to aid in seeking compensation.

We will keep you updated.

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