When it Rains, It Pours — Right into the Basement of a Townhouse on 87th Street

37 West 87th Street.

By Lisa Kava

Longtime owners of a townhouse at 37 West 87th have been experiencing an ongoing disaster that they say was caused by work done by Con Ed in front of their building in January. Every time it rains, water comes pouring into the basement. The foundation wall is saturated with water and weakened and now they fear that the building will collapse.

Water pooling in the basement.

The problem, according to Paul Friedland and Alexandra Simons, the co-owners and residents of the townhouse, began in January when Con Ed did electrical work right in front of the building beneath the sidewalk. As part of that work, Con Ed dug a trench in the street, presumably to enlarge the gas lines. But Con Ed covered the hole they created with a plate that has holes in it, which in turn allows water to come into the basement every time in rains, Simons says.

The plates.

“The permanent plate has holes in it,” Simons said. “The hole is closed with a cover that has holes in it so that when it rains the water comes into the hole and into our basement. We see water pouring down our foundation wall every time it rains.”

In addition to the problem of the leaky cover, Friedland and Simons say they were told by a Con Ed subcontractor that Con Ed needed to return to reorganize the electrical wires and seal them. Until this week, Con Ed hadn’t done that work, and “the electrical conduit is full of water after the last storm and one of our electrical boxes is filled with water,” said Simons. “There is a potential danger of an electrical fire of some kind.”

Friedland and Simons have made dozens of calls to Con Ed to tell them about this problem and to implore them to fix it. They have kept a meticulous record of their calls (which date March 2,5,7.8,13,16,17 and 23) “Every time we call Con Ed we get a complaint number and we are told they are very sorry this is a terrible thing, they say they will call the appropriate person to come in and fix the problem and then nothing happens” said Friedland. On March 23, the residents were told by Con Ed that the issue was escalated to the Department of Public Service. But that department has been unresponsive as well, they say. “The last time I spoke to the Department of Public Service, the representative said that they are looking into the situation. That was two weeks ago.” said Friedland.

They have been in touch with Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s office asking her to push Con Ed to complete the job. “We have worked on this extensively with Con Ed, since late March. Our office will continue to work with Con Ed to ensure that progress is being made and that the work is completed for this constituent,” said a representative for Rosenthal.

Since Friedland and Simons began their complaints to Con Ed on March 2nd, workers had only returned to the site one time since January until they finally returned this week, they said. In late March “they suctioned the accumulated water from the trench that they had excavated for their work,” said Friedland. But this action did not help matters since the plate covering the hole still allows rain water to come in each time, he added.

On March 28th Friedland and Simons wrote a letter to Con Ed summarizing the situation. “I have never in the 30 years I have lived at 37 West 87th Street had our foundation leak” said Simons. “The problem has been the lack of a fix and the lack of urgency…Con Ed does not seem to have realized that despite our written and oral explanation, that this is not just an annoying puddle in our basement. We have an electrical box full of water, and electrical conduit full of water and a foundation wall plausibly weakened by water flowing through it every 10 days or so.”

West Side Rag reached out to Con Ed early this week and then learned from Council Member Rosenthal’s office that an investigator from Con Ed was finally scheduled to stop by on Wednesday May 9th to assess the situation. According to Friedland, Con Ed workers returned to work at the site on Thursday May 10th with the goal of solving the problem. Unfortunately they were not successful as the rain later on the night of May 10th continued to come through the foundation wall as heard in the videos below.

A spokesperson for Con Ed told West Side Rag on Wednesday “We are not ignoring this matter. We were notified of the water entering the basement and have been trying to find answers, including doing some paving work. An inspector visited the site today and determined that some water might be coming in through the ducts and will continue to investigate what other steps might be necessary to stop the leaking.”  We asked the spokesperson why Con Ed didn’t respond to the residents’ phone calls for the past few months, as well as the reason for the long delay in returning to complete the work. The spokesperson did not answer these questions.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 13 comments | permalink
    1. denton says:

      Con Ed should fix this ASAP but if you claim the building is in danger of collapsing you are in danger of the DOB visiting and making you live somewhere else until the work is done.

    2. Sue M. Ahndlaf says:

      Is it not possible to sue ConEd?

      Would $100,000,000 in damages catch anyone’s attention?

    3. Jose Habib says:

      Forget about calling and writing letters, these people need to get a lawyer.

    4. D says:

      Same exact situation in our building on 75th. We finally fixed it ourselves.

    5. anonymous says:

      I had the same problem in my townhouse. ConEd is regulated by the NYPSC. They responded and repaired the leak after I put in a complaint with the NYPSC.
      New York State Public Service Commission
      Office of Consumer Services
      Three Empire State Plaza
      Albany, NY 12223-1350
      Voice: 518-473-0229

      • Anonymous says:

        Same here. For over half a year ConEd would do absolutely nothing about an open manhole (except, update their sign with a new completion date whenever the promised time came and went) that was not properly sealed, and flooded our brownstone basement whenever it rained. Numerous calls to ConEd – they alternatingly either denied responsibility or gave empty promises about fixing it. Calls to 311 useless as well. The only thing that truly helped was filing a complaint with the Public Services Commission. While that got ConEd going to fix it, of course we got stuck with the damages. May be worth a class action lawsuit.

    6. Scott says:

      Pretty silly thinking that a little bit of water seeping through will compromise the building. (Foundations leak all the time, in every state) And if that were my building and I knew the plate was porous, I’d go out there with a caulk gun and some roof sealant and handle it myself.

      • Pedestrian says:

        This is a serious matter. This is a lease exacerbated or created by ConEd. It is not trivial or with out consequences.

        ConEd should be fined for work like this. As for Ms. Rosenthal don’t hold your breath. Talking is ALL she does!

      • Anonymous says:

        Pretty naive and blue-eyed comment from someone who likely doesn’t know from first hand experience what he/she is talking about. The “little bit of water” often represents the drain from half the block, so consider half an hour of flooding at a rate of multiple gallons per second – it adds up. Trying to get the water out, trying to get the floors and walls dry again, replacing flooring and maybe wiring. It adds up…

        • Scott says:

          Hey anonymous person, I do know what I’m talking about. I grew up in a house in the suburbs where the foundation often leaked. Note the key phrase in the story; “they fear the building will collapse.” That’s just risible, and to make it even more risible, the “flooding” shown in the photo amounts to about a 12-oz glass of water poured on the floor. If that.

          “Replacing flooring”

          Apparently you missed the photo showing an unfinished concrete slab. There IS no flooring to replace. Or maybe you think a little bit of water will compromise a 100-year-old concrete floor. LOL

          As for getting the water out, ever heard of a Shop-Vac? Thought not. You probably call an electrician to change a lightbulb.

    7. Joey says:

      Calm down. It’s an old building. Old buildings develop leaks.
      A solution will be found.

    8. BillyNYC says:

      Welcome to the rodeo !

    9. R Cherney says:

      Been dealing with Con Ed and problems like this for years. Every time you call about the same problem you get someone different and you have to start from the beginning. They are completely indifferent and totally inept because they are pretty much the only game in town.