NEW YORK — More than three months after, several neighbors are still not allowed to return home.
Tenants say they’re struggling to get answers from the city on when that will change, so they turned to CBS New York investigative reporter Tim McNicholas.
The city says the tenants in the back end of the apartment building can’t return home yet in part because the remainder of the garage is still not fully demolished — even though a sign posted at the construction site says the anticipated completion for the demolition was in June.
You can file the disaster on April 18 under things the people of Ann Street never saw coming.
Now, Harley Rogers is adding something else to that file.
“Did you ever think that three months later you’d still be outta your place?” McNicholas asked.
“No. Rumors were, like, two weeks after, we would be back, then months,” Rogers said.
Some of the tenants quickly learned their renters insurance would only cover about two weeks’ worth of hotel stays, so Rogers’ once 15-minute commute to Chelsea is now a bus ride from Warwick.
“I’m staying an hour and a half upstate at my parents’ house while we try to figure out what’s going on,” Rogers said.
Adam Cohen says he spent more than $1,300 on his family’s hotel stays just in the last week and a half.
“Emotionally, it’s just, you don’t have a home, right? So you’re just kinda bouncing around from point to point, whether it’s whatever the cheapest hotel rate is, you’re staying on a little couch or going to friends and family,” Cohen said.
Tenants told CBS New York the demolition work seems to have either stopped or slowed down, but they don’t know why.
“We’re not getting great communication from the city or the Buildings Department, so we really don’t know what’s going on,” Rogers said.
Rogers says they even hired a lawyer to try to get clear answers, but that hasn’t worked either.
McNicholas visited the site last week and found only a security guard working there. He didn’t have the answers to our questions, so we asked the city why the demolition work wasn’t happening.
The Department of Buildings told us one reason is because they’re still working with law enforcement and the district attorney to investigate the cause of the collapse, which includes digging through the debris for evidence.
The city is not saying what they’re finding so far, and when we tried to call the owners of the garage, no one answered.
Back in April, we reported that the garage had open violations from 2003 and 2009 related to missing or defective concrete.
“A lot of cracks all over … The way they park the big cars on the roof. And I say, wow, it’s not safe,” garage employee Pierre Vancol said at the time.
The city says safety is a top priority, and the tenants who are displaced say it’s top of mind for them, too, but their confusion only grew when a hotel on the block was recently allowed to partially reopen and welcome guests again.
“I think it’s a little ridiculous that they’re closer to the garage and they’re allowed to operate,” Rogers said.
We asked the city about that, too, and they say the back of the once L-shaped garage, the part still standing, is right alongside the back of the residential building, so tenants in the back of the building still can’t return, even as the hotel is deemed safe to partially reopen.
The city says the demolition is now expected to be complete in the next few weeks, “barring any unforeseen delays.”
Rogers isn’t getting his hopes up.
“I only have, like, a suitcase worth of clothes and some important documents, but everything else is still there,” he said.
Another complicating factor in all this: the city doesn’t want to damage any of the century-old buildings in that area during the demolition.
The city says they have been communicating with the tenants, but they’re not satisfied.
Alice J. Roden started working for Trending Insurance News at the end of 2021. Alice grew up in Salt Lake City, UT. A writer with a vast insurance industry background Alice has help with several of the biggest insurance companies. Before joining Trending Insurance News, Alice briefly worked as a freelance journalist for several radio stations. She covers home, renters and other property insurance stories.