Safety First

The week of June 16th will probably be known, in the annals of the Selis Manor Renovation, as the week they kept shutting off the hot water every day. So, why is this happening? Why no hot water from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon?

We have a very good answer to that question. It is a matter of safety. The hot water heaters will not be in operation because the gas which fuels them needs to be turned off each day.  Our contractors are doing things by the book. In order to remove the big old clunky boilers which provided heat for the building in each of the last thirty-two winters, those boilers need to be cut into pieces. This is accomplished by blow torch. Following the strictest safety guidelines the main gas line needs to be shut off and, in what is a very meticulous and copious two-hour process, each valve along the line is checked and protected before the first torch is lit. There will be supervision by fire guards, known as a fire watch, and representation by the NYFD. Every precaution will be in place to prevent any mishaps. Even though blowing up the basement might be the quickest way of getting some residents to Stuyvesant Town, we’d prefer to keep the entire building on 23rd Street.

On Friday it was finally time to demolish the first floor Men’s Room. In what has become a tradition during the demolition here, the crew busted through a pipe and water was gushing onto the first floor. The water pipes at Selis Manor lately have given the Dancing Fountains at the Bellagio Hotel a run for their money. At least we learned that this was not the easiest way of mopping an entire floor all at once.

As always, we apologize for any inconvenience and we would like to thank all our residents, clients and guests for your understanding and cooperation in helping to make this project a success.

Beautiful Things

We’re going to take a break from our usual construction update for a bit of a personal reflection from our Construction Manager, John LiCastro. We hope you enjoy it.

Memorial Day Weekend gave most of us a break from renovation. Most of us, but not me. You see, this was the weekend I’d picked to begin painting my living room. After packing up and moving as much out as I could, the first task was to scrape off the peeling paint and patch those voids with spackle. Now, I live in a seventy year old building in “Beautiful Downtown Flushing” and the paint is about twenty layers thick, or roughly the same thickness as an audio or computer CD. When you start chipping away at a crack the size of a pinky nail, you generally end up with patches the size of a pizza, and I had pizza-sized patches all over my walls. Needless to say, I bought a lot of spackle and troweled it in fairly expertly if I do say so myself. So, by Monday, I was ready to begin sanding. I had my sanding block in hand, and began smoothing each patch with good old-fashioned elbow grease. I took my time because I really wanted this to turn out beautiful.

Yes, beautiful. This reminds me of a conversation I had a while ago with a resident of Selis Manor. I had mentioned that the lobby was going to be beautiful. She made a face and said forgive me but your idea of beautiful doesn’t mean much to me. Well, I hemmed and hawed and apologized; but after this weekend, I think I’m going to take back that apology, and here’s why:

As I was smoothing out my patches of spackle I realized that the only way to know that you’ve done your job is to run your palm across the area just sanded. To me it looked smooth, but running my hand over it I could feel the bumps and ridges, and so I would sand it some more, and it would still be a bit uneven, so I continued until I ran my hand over a perfectly smooth surface and I would say to myself, “that’s beautiful,” and then move on to the next patch. The dust that all this sanding kicked up prevented me from turning on my air-conditioner, so I opened the window like in the old days, and appreciated the fresh air and every little breeze on what the weatherman promised would be a beautiful day. And when I took a break, I had a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade. My television was covered to protect it from the dust, so while I was working I was listening to a baseball game on the radio, and for me there’s nothing better than listening to baseball on the radio. (Although, it was the Mets, and I’ll be honest, this team ain’t that beautiful.)

So everything that contributed to this beautiful day had nothing to do with anything visual. And when I eventually finish my project, yes, I hope it will look good, but it will also feel cleaner and smell fresher and if I keep my promise to myself and throw out half the things I packed out of there, it will be roomier.

So I take back my apology. The new lobby will have a waiting area that will be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer and have comfortable chairs and have a luxurious feel to it. And it will be beautiful. And the courtyard will have shade trees and tables and chairs, and the roof garden will have plants and trees and (rumor has it) lounge chairs. And everything in the apartments will be brand new.

Beauty is not only what can be perceived visually; if it were the world would be a sad place. But the world is filled with all sorts of beautiful things and when all is said and done, Selis Manor will be a beautiful place to live.

The auditorium is back in business!

We’re happy to say that the Auditorium is back in use, with a new entrance, a slightly different layout, and partitions for VISIONS classes being run simultaneously in the space. Everyone seems to be acclimating to the changes quite nicely.

With demolition in full force in the basement, we know there’s quite a bit of banging and rattling. Some of this rattling caused an old pipe to burst, and unfortunately the building water had to be shut down with very little notice again. This time it was for a much shorter duration, but we apologize that it had to be shut down at all. Normally we like to give residents advance warning, but please understand that the last two incidents were unforeseen accidents and needed to be fixed promptly and properly. We thank you for your understanding and we assure you that we are taking precautions to avoid recurrences.

The week of May 19th is dedicated to flooring. Literally tons of old flooring materials are being removed and carted off. We will be getting down to the bare concrete so we can start fresh with new floors, new layouts for brand new walls and ceilings, and just about brand new everything in the basement and on the first floor.

But we can assure you that things are moving along on schedule, so try not to concern yourselves over the noise and bustle. Enjoy the beautiful weather! And you’ll be enjoying some brand new spaces before you know it!

As always, we appreciate all of your understanding and cooperation in helping to make this project a success.

What’s happening behind those new walls?

Friday, May 9th was a Big Day. After weeks of behind the scenes demolition there was finally tangible proof that things are moving along. The Auditorium has been reconfigured to the temporary layout it will enjoy for the next two years, or until the final phase in 2016, when that too will be restored as close to its original glory as possible. For now, though, the double-door entrance will be down the west hallway, just opposite the VISIONS reception reception area, where the mailboxes used to be. The current waiting area has been walled off and is much smaller for now.

So what’s happening behind those new walls? First and foremost, the building is getting a slight extension. We will expand the Community Room into the courtyard about 14 feet east in order to make room for the new Laundry Room and the Snack Bar/Community Room. Then it’s onto the restrooms. First the Men’s Room, and then the Ladies’ Room, will get all new paint, tiles and fixtures. We’re hoping this will help us move up a few notches in the world bathroom rankings, which now has us just below the condemned toilets of Calcutta. 😉

Behind that new wall inside the Auditorium, a hole will be cut in the floor for the new stairway to the basement — which sounds like a song title, but it’s not (it would be a pretty depressing one if it were). This new stairway will provide a quick egress from the basement for students, teachers and bowlers alike!

Once again, we would like to thank all our residents, clients and guests for your understanding and cooperation in helping to make this project a success.

Is Anything Happening?

Is anything happening? Well, yes, more than you could imagine. The basement demolition is well underway. Ceiling tiles and grids are down, some walls are gone, and the old basement air conditioning ductwork is on its way out. Dozens of cartloads of debris have been brought up and out to be carted away. We appreciate everyone’s patience as this tied up an elevator for a good part of Friday. The mailboxes were moved earlier, this week so mailboxes one through 142 are a little further down, but in the same order as before.

Item of the week: The Great and Controversial Soda Machine Relocation Saga. Sometime during the week of May 12th we are going to have to move all of the soda machines into the Auditorium. The good news is that one machine will fit outside the new Auditorium (near the mailboxes that did not move). So, for the time being, when the Auditorium is closed, after 8:00 pm and on weekends, there will be only one vending machine available. This will be the juice machine, which is the more popular of the two. Because you will not have access to the other soda machines, those tenants who have particular likes should visit those machines before 8:00 pm (especially on a Friday) and get a few extra cans to keep in your refrigerator. We know this is an inconvenience, but it will not be for very long. The new Laundry and Snack Bar/Community Room is scheduled at the beginning of the first phase of construction, and will be up and running before you know it!

Once again, we would like to thank all our residents, clients and guests for your understanding and cooperation in helping to make this project a success.

Hello, Construction!

We’re happy to report that construction has commenced! There are new walls and emergency doors in place to cordon off the work areas. Behind those walls sheet rock is going up, other walls are coming down, floors are being opened for new stairs and the like, and preparation is underway for new air-conditioning and heating systems in the basement. Over the next six months our contractors will be working behind those walls creating a new laundry, snack bar, computer center, personal service rooms and offices for Visions. This is “Phase One” and we will keep you up to date on the progress of those spaces right here in this blog. Item of the week: Curbside Lane Closure. This means a lane will be closed to traffic for the purpose of allowing construction vehicles to park for deliveries. It will be the entire length of the building with the exception of two spaces at the entrance. Access-A-Ride will still pick up and drop off at the front entrance, but they will not have the amount of space they previously had to line up. Because of this heightened activity in one concentrated area, we ask that those with service animals or pets, walk their dogs away from the front of the building. The lane is closed to traffic so it will actually be safer to walk your dog east and west of the entrance where the barricades are up. This will help to keep the sidewalk clean at the entrance. (We’ll alert our construction vehicle operators to watch their step.) We would like to thank all our residents, clients and guests for your understanding and cooperation in helping to make this project a success.

We finally closed! Yay!

We are THRILLED to be able to tell you that we have closed on the HUD refinance, and the Selis Manor renovation project is now underway!

Stay tuned for frequent updates as the project revs up — we’re going to have lots to tell you!

Renovation News!

Hello everyone. We’re back online with our renovation blog because we finally have something to report!

HUD approved the owner’s application to renovate the property with new HUD FHA financing, and we are now able to provide specific answers to your questions.

This also means that you can resume going to for updated renovation and temporary relocation information in written and audio formats; as well as receive email and SMS notifications of postings and comments from, both the owner, and your fellow residents.

Our hope is to close the loan with HUD in October, 2013. The agreement with HUD does allow us to postpone the closing to, either November, or December, 2013, BUT we would incur a severe financial penalty if we did postpone the closing beyond those months.

The plan right now is to begin work on the first floor and basement in January, 2014 with the laundry room remaining open for your use. The apartments will not begin renovation until April or May, 2014 because we have to order the new window systems which will also include the new air conditioning and heating system. At this point in time, we intend to renovate two floors at one time starting with the 12th and 11th floors.

Again, apartment work will not start, most likely, until April or May of 2014!

The owner will schedule a meeting with all residents sometime during the first two weeks of October. In the meantime, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to post a comment below.

While this will be a road filled with many details, we will do everything within our power to make the trip as easy and comfortable as possible.

We are confident that you will be very pleased with the transition to a new Selis Manor.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Report: After Hurricane Sandy

After the worse storm ever to hit NYC, we are thankful to be able to report that everyone at Selis Manor has been pitching in to maintain as best a level of comfort as can be found under such difficult circumstances. Although there is no power and, as a result, no water in the building,  there was no physical damage to the property.

Cesar Vidal is doing an incredible, actually heroic, job at the property.  There is no water in the building, but Cesar was able to come up with a way to provide access to water on the first floor. Residents are at least able to fill up a bucket or other container and bring water up to their apartment for cleaning, etc. He also was able to get electric from the generator to a resident who is on a respirator, as well as set up an area for the residents to charge their phones. Really extraordinary work, and Jose (who is supposed to be on vacation right now) is also working very hard.

There are some volunteers, and Visions has some people helping the residents (for example, helping to bring water up to the apartments). The maintenance staff is there; the office is closed but Toni was in Tuesday morning.

The tenants association is stepping up to the plate in a major way and providing a lot of positive help and communication. For example, they were able to secure meals from the National Guard that do not need refrigeration.

Thankfully we have a generator that is is keeping the elevators running.  The generator cannot run the entire building, only the elevators, some hall lighting, and some outlets located around the building. We ordered generator fuel on Tuesday, and it arrived this morning; the generator now has a full tank of fuel to last through the weekend. We will need to baby the elevators due to the usage, and agreed with the tenants association that we would shut them down daily between 12am and 5am.

The picture would be a lot better if we had electricity, but we are amazed and gratified to see how everyone is helping each other.

As always, please call Tony Savarese at 914-772-2728 if you have any questions or concerns.

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Standard HUD Pre-payment Notice Posted

A pre-payment notice has been distributed to tenants and posted in the building. This is one of the standard notices HUD requires the owner to execute in the refinance process, and does not affect the residents’ rent level or occupancy status. Please contact Tony Savarese with any questions. Thank you.

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