This is the first of a three-part installment on the renovation of Ocean Village, a housing complex in the Far Rockaways. Today, we look at what happens to building renovation plans after a major storm hits…
One year after Hurricane Sandy, we check in with L+M Development Partners, a real estate development company based in New York specializing in affordable housing. When Sandy hit, L+M was in contract to purchase Ocean Village, a 1,093-unit housing development in the Far Rockaways. “L&M specializes in affordable housing, as well as the preservation of existing buildings,” Rick Gropper, of L+M, told us. “Ocean Village is a large complex. It was our first purchase in the neighborhood, and we saw this as our anchor property in the Rockaways.” L+M planned to undergo a large-scale rehab here to the tune of $60,000,000. At the time, Ocean Village had 350 vacancies, a deteriorating roof and persistent leaks. From an economic standpoint, the building was losing roughly $500,000 a year. L+M already started holding tenant meetings about the upcoming purchase before Hurricane Sandy. Once it hit, with the property still under contract, “Nobody wanted to take responsibility,” Gropper said. “So the city asked us to step in.”
Ocean Village, like many of the large complexes in the Far Rockaways, was under five feet of water after the hurricane. The storm fried the transformer and also completely flooded 20 apartment units that were partly below grade. The building went two weeks without power, until L+M could secure emergency generators from Ohio. Until then, the elevators, water pumps, and lighting were all out of working order. “We closed [the sale] when this building had no power,” said Gropper. “The storm was traumatic for everyone, including us, but we weren’t living there.” Some of the elderly residents who didn’t leave for the storm were stuck in upper-level apartments while the elevator was out of service. L+M set up a food and supply distribution center in the building’s common room and hosted Doctors Without Borders at the site. L+M also held four “Sandy Refugee” open-houses following the hurricane, coordinating with various city agencies. They were able to move around 12-15 Sandy refugees into vacant apartments after the open houses, and all but two are still living in the complex. And of course, L+M had to rethink their entire renovation plans in the wake of the storm.
After the jump, Rick Gropper tells us about the company’s greatest development challenge post Sandy, the new course for building restoration, and the state of the complex today…
According to Gropper, L+M’s greatest challenge at Ocean Village post Sandy was rethinking the electrical infrastructure. Sandy wiped out all electrical power, which was located below grade. The building, constructed in 1974, “was not designed with severe weather events in mind.” They replaced all the electrical infrastructure – transformers, switch-gears, ground feeders, you name it – and moved it above-grade. They are working on installing emergency generators for the building. L+M is also currently building out a flood barrier on the beach side of the property.
The renovation didn’t stop at storm-related improvements. As part of the original plan, L+M completely renovated apartment units – today, all but five units received kitchen and bathroom upgrades, window replacements as needed, painting, new doors, new hardware, and new intercoms. L+M is in the process of replacing all of the roofs and has added new emergency stairwell lighting, new hallway lighting, new hallway tiling, hallway painting and upgrades for the three community rooms. There’s a totally new security system, new building entrances, and a new laundry room to come. They restored the building facade and are upgrading outdoor pathways, landscaping, and onsite lighting. There are also several playgrounds and courtyards currently in the making.
The massive renovation project came just in time for Ocean Village, which was ultimately renamed Arverne View. The building is now fully occupied after 350 vacancies one year ago. Gropper says that he hasn’t seen many storm-resistant measures taken at other large-scale buildings in the neighborhood, however. “The community groups learned a lot as far as preparation and the importance of a central place to gather in an emergency,” he says. “But I haven’t seen many resiliency measures executed here.” He says L+M is working with the city to set up a central location for Arverne View residents to gather in case of another storm.
Stay tuned for our next installment, in which we take a tour of Arverne View. In the third and final installment we will talk to residents about their experience during the storm and the renovation over the last year.
Ocean Village before:
Arverne View after:
Rendering of the outdoor amenities: