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Downtown managers aid their water-wary tenants.

Chelsea and Lower East Side building owners, managers and business were scrambling last week to provide water to employees and tenants affect by a sudden bacterial contamination in the city's water supply

Downtown had its first clean report on Thursday, properties in the Little Neck, Queens and Morris Park, Bronx, were getting their first high E. coli counts. On Friday the alert in Chelsea was extended. Other reports were not in by press time.

Out of 12,000 tests conducted a year, said Division of environmental Protection spokesperson, John Melia, it is not unheard of to get 20 one-time readings at higher levels. This is the fourth alert since the Federal government lowered the alert count level since 1991. "Out of 36,000 tests, what kind of percentage is that?" Melia observed.

The presence of E. coli raises the possibility that there has been a contamination with animal wastes. Melia explained that in all four of these alerts there was no increase -- either before or after -- of patients under intestinal duress reporting to city emergency rooms. These water warnings are given, however, because the DEP has an obligation to protect the public health.

John J. Gilbert III, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, said the city was helpful and responsible in getting city workers out to the building to post notices. Many notices were posted by 6:30 a.m on Tuesday before the owners could even touch base with their supers and managers.

"My sense is that the city is doing everything they can, Gilbert said. He was trouble, however, that only scattered areas were affected.

Adolf Kusy & Co., a meat market on Washington Street, was one of the few wholesale meat markets that had not been shut down by the crisis. Joe Nemecek the owner, said, "We're one of the luck places." Since everything they sell is packaged, cut and wrapped somewhere else they have been able to keep the business going.

Over at London Terrace in Chelsea, Andrew Hoffman, general manager of Clarendon Management, said he had not had any complaints which surprised him. "The city for once did a good job," he said, posting notices with Spanish on one side and English on the other at midnight on Monday. The tenants do have water, he observed, they just have to boil it. He is concerned, however, about his elderly tenants who may find it a great hardship if the alert goes on for a long time. "The fact that it's summer helps because not a lot of people are home. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

London Terrace tenants were also obtaining water from one of the milk trucks the city had rented at a cost of $150 per hour. "Everyone thinks they are getting some kind of bottled water," laughed Hoffman. "The drivers told us they were getting it from a hydrant at 79th Street and Amsterdam."

Melvyn Kaufman, of the William Kaufman Organization, never one to mince words, wanted to know, "How can I rent space in buildings where the water is no good?" Within a few hours of being notified, they had bottled water on site for sale in the Downtown buildings. Kaufman was angry with the city for its inability to keep the infrastructure in operable order. "They have to deal with the infrastructure," he explained. "The church will take care of charity. You make sure my water is pure, my roads are good, my bridges are operable, and stop charging $3 to cross the bridge to support a monster on the west side," he said, referring to the Twin Towers owned by the Port Authority. "The mayor says to the tenant, go back into those buildings and don't go into the private buildings where we collect taxes. "

William J. Toohey, director of management services for Cushman & Wakefield's Downtown office said they were relatively complaint free. "I think everyone is well informed by the news media and we're coping quite well, " he said. The firm reacted to the DEP warnings by passing out the agency's notices to tenants and posting them near water coolers and other places where tenants might go for water.

"We didn't take a chance," Toohey explained. "They had passed one per building out and then we took it upon ourselves to distribute it throughout the buildings. "

Toohey said they also arranged with water cooler companies to ensure that those tenants that didn't have bottled water had access to it.

Once the all-clear is given, Toohey said they will flush and sanitize all the water in the building, from risers and holding tanks to air conditioners. This is something that is done on a regular basis to combat Legionnaire's disease, he noted, but will be done here as an additional treatment.

Wallace Rosenwach, chairman of Rosenwach Tank warned that owners in these areas should "positively clean the tanks before they use them." The water holding tanks need to be chlorinated by the tank company because the bacteria would have soaked into the wood. "Once they get the turn on, they have to dump [the water] out and clean it," Rosenwach explained.

All the water should also be run out of the building faucets. Once they refill the tanks, then Rosenwach said, the water should be run again for five to ten minutes to flush out the pipes. Toohey observed. "We've been through fires and floods. It's just another thing in the day in the life of yorkers. "
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Title Annotation:high E. coli bacteria counts detected in New York, New York water supply at various locations
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Aug 4, 1993
Words:907
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