2002-07-20 / Front Page

Contractor Controversy!

NYCHA Company Accused
of Shabby Work and Theft
By Gary G. Toms

NYCHA Company Accused
of Shabby Work and Theft
By Gary G. Toms

Work being done on apartments at the Ocean Bay Houses (formerly, the Arverne/Edgemere Houses) has become controversial as residents claim that the work is being performed shoddily as well as not being done in a timely manner. In addition, there are claims that the workers have stolen property from resident's apartments.Work being done on apartments at the Ocean Bay Houses (formerly, the Arverne/Edgemere Houses) has become controversial as residents claim that the work is being performed shoddily as well as not being done in a timely manner. In addition, there are claims that the workers have stolen property from resident's apartments.

Over the last two weeks, The Wave has received complaints about housing reconstruction in the Arverne and Edgemere apartment complexes in Rockaway. Residents claim Bovis Lend Lease Contractors, located at Beach 54 Street in Arverne, which is contracted by New York City Housing Authority, has failed to complete reconstruction projects on their bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas of the home within designated time periods. Claims have also been made that workers have acted in a disrespectful manner by verbally abusing residents whenever they questioned workers about the jobs being done. Some have issued formal complaints against the New York City Housing Authority, and submitted police reports, after workers allegedly entered their apartments, with the assistance of NYCHA, and removed items from the dwellings.

In a letter sent to The Wave, Denise Richardson, a long time resident of Arverne, stated, "There are now areas in my apartment that are in far worse condition than they were in before Bovis workers "reconstructed" them. I have been lied to, lied on, stolen from, verbally assaulted and abused, and basically dismissed by Bovis representatives when I tried to file complaints."

Richardson continues by pointing out that NYCHA and Bovis have blamed each other for the various problems she has experienced, and that neither is making an effort to solve the problems.

"New York City Housing Authority representatives have done nothing but consistently pass the buck to Bovis regarding these matters, and Bovis in turn passes the buck back to NYCHA," said Richardson.

"It’s like a vicious tennis game, and I, as the tenant, am the ball. I feel quite confident in saying that I am certainly not the only resident of Ocean Bay Apartments, formerly known as Arverne-Edgemere Houses, who is experiencing horror at the hands of Bovis."

After receiving the letter, other calls came in that corroborated Richardson’s claims. However, unlike Richardson, they did not want their names printed, citing concerns of retaliation from the contractors or NYCHA.

The Wave contacted the office of Bovis Lend Lease Contractors, and we were told that we had to speak to their public relations representative at Barfield Public Relations. We contacted the public relations firm and spoke to its director, Pauline Barfield. "We are only doing community outreach regarding this project. We suggest you speak to the people at Bovis," said Barfield. No other comments were provided.

When The Wave informed Bovis Lend Lease Contractors that the public relations company declined comment, they stated, "We cannot comment at this time."

Through a host of sources, The Wave was able to contact John Rodway, the Chief of Contract Administration for NYCHA, and inform him of the complaints being made against Bovis.

"While we recognize that there have been problems, as there always are during the tenure of any reconstruction project, we have worked very hard to correct them," said Rodway.

When pressed to address the various allegations made against Bovis and its workers, Rodway was very forthcoming and direct in answering.

"With regard to the claims that we are not completing work assignments on time, we had made it abundantly clear to members of the community that we would be working in phases," he said.

"We basically spread the work out into different intervals, which we think is good for working residents because it would allow them to go to work as opposed to being in the home everyday. Can you imagine if we tried to do everything (the bathroom, kitchen and other areas of the home) all in one shot? Someone would have to be in the home every single day, and that could pose serious problems for those who have to be at work."

The NYCHA official was very quick to address the issue concerning "illegal" entry of residents’ apartments by Bovis workers.

"People must understand something. There are apartments that run along the same water or gas mainline, and if work is being done, or needs to be done, on a particular main, we have to be able to have access to those apartments. We have gone as far as to give people 72 hours notice that we will be working on apartments in designated areas on certain dates and times. We have even held community meetings and placed flyers, but for whatever reason, they leave or do not allow us access. The NYCHA then provides us access to do the work that is needed."

Rodway acknowledged that he is aware of reports of theft and disrespectful treatment by workers.

"Let me say this to the public. Any worker that was stealing or cursing at residents is no longer on the project. We have fired workers who have mistreated or disrespected residents."

Connie Taylor, Queens Chair of the New York City Housing Authority, noted that she received complaints from residents, but stressed that Bovis has been very accommodating when the problems were brought to their attention.

"There were a few problems in my apartment, and they came right in and took care of them," says Taylor.

The elderly woman, described as a fighter and a saint by many in the community, informed The Wave of how Rodway went above and beyond his role in addressing a problem she had.

"One day work was being done in my apartment. The men were moving things around, and they accidentally broke the antennae on my television set. Do you know that John Rodway came to my house and gave me a brand new antenna? I thought that was really special," she said.

Taylor believes that while some people have legitimate complaints, many do not, and they are making minor situations appear to be something major.

"Some people are just complaining to be complaining. As I see it, this company is doing a good job. If they weren’t, the people of this community know that I would be all over the contractors and the company," said the Queens Chair.

Since the reconstruction being done at Ocean Bay Apartments is affiliated with the Hope VI project, The Wave contacted the office of Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, who plays a major role with regard to Hope VI, and spoke with Ed Williams, Meeks’ Community Relations representative.

"The Congressman has had a number of meetings with the resident leaders at both Edgemere and Arverne Houses regarding their complaints, specifically about the craftsmanship work being done in the apartments," said Williams. "Many complaints have come into the office regarding jobs, alleged theft from the apartments, etc. The residents have been told to file police reports regarding the thefts, and to file a claim with the New York City Housing Authority for any loss or damages."

As a result of the problems, Congressman Meeks has requested a meeting with the Chairman of the New York City Housing Authority, Tino Hernandez.

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