When Sandy hit on the evening of Monday, October 29 we were watching TV. Something which has never happened before occurred – the upper right corner of the screen went black and the legend appeared “please wait” and then it just went all black. This is serious I thought. All the power failed and we started, with all the others below 34th Street, our four day travail with candles and flash lights, grubbing about the fridge and pantry for meals. We put on our battery radio to WNYC and left it on day and night for the four days of the black out, listening to descriptions of water flooding into the auto and subway tunnels but no reports of the far less dramatic water washing over the West Side highway.
Finally, on Friday, November 9, 11 days after the storm, I biked down to Pier 40 to pick up our Honda Odyssey to drive out to our house in Bridgehampton to see what damage had occurred there.
Hudson River Park Trust Executive Vice President Noreen Doyle had sent out email on Tuesday, November 6, to the members of the waterfront committee to say that power was off, “Our largest problems are at Pier 40. We learned today that the transformer at Pier 40 needs to be taken apart and repaired. It may take between 2-4 weeks to do so.” Sure enough, when I entered the cavernous North parking garage it was indeed near black except for a generator driven work light. I made my way down the row of indistinguishable vehicles until I felt the bug shield on my car and opened the driver door only to be met with the sour smell of sewage; when I sat down, the seat was damp – very damp.
I put the key in and turned on the motor, only to hear a ding ding – a sound I had never heard in my car for the 10 years we had owned it. I looked at my GPS screen and a very strange diagram appeared. No amount of button pushing would make it disappear or stop the strange ding ding sound.
“Oh my!” I thought. “I have to bring this car to the dealership to see what’s wrong with it.” Later, as I loaded the car in the light, I discovered that a box of tissues and a roll of paper towels on the floor of the car were saturated and stank. Indeed, the carpets were soaking wet and I realized this car had been under water. Would I be able to drive to the dealership?
My thought was to save the car and replace the necessities like the carpets and the GPS system. It came to over $6000 but the Service Manager said, “Once you get salt water into the car you are going to get corrosion and problems.”
On Thursday November 15, the Nationwide adjuster met me at the pier to review my “options.” As I waited for the adjuster, I looked up to see A. J. Pietrantone of Friends of Hudson River Park, on his way to visit Madelyn Wils who heads the Hudson River Park Trust and expressed my unhappiness at losing what was a $30,000 vehicle which I kept immaculate. “Tell Madelyn I am very angry,” I found myself saying. My anger was that nobody called me to say that the pier is flooding and you better get your car out.
While I waited for Nationwide, I became aware of a large dumpster with water damaged office furniture which came from the several offices located on the first level of the pier. Why hadn’t Noreen mentioned that fact in her e-mail of November 6? All she offered was that the transformer was out, so I sent an e-mail.
You heard from AJ that I lost my car when the pier got flooded. Why didn’t you have the parking people call when the pier started to flood? Why didn’t you make a radio news announcement? How many cars were lost? Why didn’t Noreen mention it in her e-mail when she reported the power was out?
I hope you can imagine how difficult it is right now. We are doing the best we can to deal with the hundreds of issues we have. You had all day to remove your car before the hurricane and we had our parking operator stay until 4PM to allow people to do so. The pier flooded in a matter of minutes and by then there was nothing more to do.
I would have removed my car if I had known the pier was flooding, but see how Noreen deals with the problem.
As I’m sure is obvious, the email sent on November 6th to the Advisory Council and the other emails we have circulated make no attempt to provide a comprehensive inventory of all the damage sustained in the park. There is thus no mystery to why Pier 40’s parking garage was not explicitly mentioned in my email. As you and I have previously discussed, I do not have any involvement in the day to day operations of the parking garage operation here. However, I have checked with the staff that does and can report the following in response to your question.
Prior to the storm, Central Parking attempted to contact all customers that park on the ground floor to advise them of the option to park on a higher level. Given the experience during Tropical Storm Irene, many people took advantage of this opportunity to move their cars since the entire park is in Zone A. During the early part of the storm, HRPT directed Central Parking to open the fare collection gates to ensure that anyone needing to access their cars could exit or enter the facility at will. Central Parking staff volunteered to remain on duty until 4 pm the day of the storm to assist customers.
We do not have a report of how many cars received water damage. Owners have made their own assessments of damage in preparation for filing insurance or other claims, just as we and other New Yorkers are doing right now. Given that much of the park and many of our tenants do not have power restored yet, I hope you and others will understand that our efforts are concentrated in this area right now. Central Parking has provided updates to parking customers about the status of power etc. as new information becomes available and will continue to do so. We will also continue to provide updates through our website and emails. Today’s good news is that we will be able to reopen the indoor field starting on Friday.
Here is my response:
… it is not the sole or even prime responsibility of the parking company to let people know their car might be inundated by the storm surge. It is the responsibility of the management of the Hudson River Park Trust.
You contract with the parking company and you receive payment from me and the other thousands of parkers. (It used to be that we sent our checks to the parking contractor but you guys decided you wanted the money direct – as soon as possible – and with that you take direct responsibility.)…
So, if you park on the lower level of Pier and you have not been down since the storm I suggest you check out your car to see if it is still running. I do not believe we will ever be told how many cars were flooded but if I were a developer looking to build on Pier 40 I would demand an answer.