Moving Mayhem: Expired Leases and Relocation Plans Run Afoul of Gas Shortages and Power Outages

Nor has the storm slackened New Yorkers’ appetite for apartment hunting. In the midst of all the craziness, Ms. Aalai has been trying to set-up showings for a woman who is relocating to city and wants to see downtown apartments on Friday and Saturday, undeterred by the fact that management companies are closed, keys are unavailable and none of the buildings have power.

Even moves in relatively unaffected corners of the boroughs were complicated by Sandy. Mike Mishkin, a broker with the Oxford Property Group said that while all of his clients this month were moving from one Upper West Side apartment to another, one  was stuck in the Catskills without MetroNorth service and couldn’t make it back by the first.

Landlords and management companies have been understanding for the most part, brokers say, but some have insisted on timely departures in spite of the trying circumstances (to be fair, many are under intense pressure from new tenants who need to move in).

“I had a client with no power, a less-than-thoughtful landlord and a lease that ended November one who needed to move into a townhouse in the West Village,” Town Residential senior vice president Bo Poulsen said in an email. “I got the keys for her from my place in pitch-black Tribeca last night and rode my bike up to inspect the townhouse this morning to make sure it had not suffered any storm damage. Was able to get her the keys this afternoon. I have quite a few clients who are displaced and am doing my best to find them temporary or permanent housing as quickly as I can.”

Even those willing to move in such a disordered city have been at the mercy of moving companies operating at greatly diminished capacity—a huge problem in a city where most residents don’t own vehicles.

“I can’t even open the office,”  said Alex Sardon, the owner of Chelsea Moving. “I’m doing my best and people are understanding, but it’s very tough.” The only silver lining was that water hadn’t seeped into any of his storage units, he said, before excusing himself , as he was driving around in search of gas and needed to get off the phone.

UHaul also had to close its Chelsea location, which is partially underwater. “We’re trying to get other trucks in, but gas is an issue and all of our surrounding states that normally would have helped are having the same problems,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Daniel Norber, the president of Imperial Moving, told The Observer that his company has been handling all its scheduled jobs and even picking up last-minute ones for people whose companies cancelled on them. But the moves have been more difficult than normal with traffic jams and a lack of lights (one job required a flashlight). At the moment, he sees gas shortages as the biggest challenge.

“That’s the most difficult situation,” sighed Mr. Norber. “The places we usually work with can’t supply it, but we’ll go to New Jersey or Long Island if we have to. Or drive the trucks until they run out of gas.”

Some renters narrowly missed a miserable moving experience. Bloomberg News food critic Ryan Sutton said that he’d requested a one-month lease extension on his Kips Bay apartment a week before Sandy hit.

“Didn’t know about the storm, just got lucky. Very very lucky,” Mr. Sutton wrote in an email. “Trying to figure out whether this whole situation will create a short term price spike because now more people will be looking in November than otherwise because of the extensions.” Still, even carrying his bike up and down eleven flights of stairs didn’t seem so bad in light of the alternative.

Some out-of-town residents decided to proceed with their scheduled moves into Manhattan regardless of Sandy. New York is not, after all, a city that attracts the weak-willed. Samantha Hoover and her boyfriend, both writers, had already signed a November 1st lease for a fourth-floor apartment in Kips Bay, rented a car and started the drive from New Orleans when Sandy whacked New York.

“It was either find a place to stay outside the city or move in,” said Ms. Hoover. “We just decided to move in, although the whole trip was a lot more stressful than we’d expected.”

Fortunately for the couple, the George Washington Bridge was the only crossing into Manhattan not restricted to vehicles with at least three people, so their loaded car with only two was waved through. But the excitement did not end there. The person who had the key to their apartment had spent the storm in Rockaway Beach and lost it, though another copy was located. They had at least counted on having lights in the stairwell for moving, but as with so many other routine tasks undertaken these past few days, they manged to schlep everything upstairs thanks to candlelight.

“This summer we had to evacuate New Orleans for Hurricane Isaac,” Ms. Hoover said. “You don’t really budget for two hurricanes a year.” But at least they knew what to do in a power outage; they’d lost electricity for a week during Isaac. And it made for a unique introduction to the city.

“Driving through Manhattan with the streetlights out was kind of a once in a lifetime experience,” she said.

kvelsey@observer.com

Comments

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