On Hudson Street, Digging Through Losses from a Basement Flood

 In the basement of 100 Hudson Street, Pamela Casper goes through paintings she salvaged after the flood. Behind her, Jonathan Porath cleans off his wife's paintings. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 02, 2013

It was all too familiar. The hum of hu­­midifiers, the workers in hazmat suits filling dumpster after dumpster with debris-stuffed garbage bags, the sorting through of flood-ruined belongings in the dampness of a lower floor.

But this was no Sandy-like natural disaster that swamped the basement of 100 Hudson Street, a 10-story co-op between Frank­lin and Leonard streets. Last month, a leak from the yawning, utility-filled trench in front of the building, part of the massive Hudson Street water main project, emptied four feet of water into the building’s 7,000-square-foot basement.

According to a statement by the city’s Department of Design and Con­struction, the leak was the result of a “mechanical failure on an existing fitting connecting to the sprinkler system at 100 Hudson St.”

Residents said the building’s superintendent called the Fire Department around 5 a.m. on Nov. 10, when he saw the trench filling with water and watched in horror as, with a big whoosh, it suddenly began to drain. The force of the water, they said, bored a hole through the basement floor, “pushing aside tremendous blocks of cement.” Firemen pumped out the water, leaving more than a half-foot of mud in its wake.

Storage cages line the basement, and they were filled with ruined belongings, many of them irreplaceable.

“That’s old art that’s going to get thrown away,” artist Pamela Casper said, motioning to a gar­bage bag filled with her work.

Two series from the 1980s that were especially precious to her—drawings of breakdancers at an 18th Street roller rink and pastels of the World Trade Center as seen from her apartment—were among the casualties.

“They were caked with mud,” she said. “I scraped it off just to try to air them but they were ruined.”

Nearby, Jonathan Porath was cleaning the oil paintings by his wife, Basmat. He said he thought he could save most of them, but he was less certain about the piles of negatives.

“I just washed them and dried them,” he said. “Twenty-five years of family photo­­graphs, before the digital age.”

In its statement to the Trib, the DDC said, “We sympathize with residents who may have lost belongings, and we understand that the building’s management and the contractor, CAC In­dustries, have been speaking to try to reach a resolution. Failing that, residents may file claims with the City Comp­troller’s office within 90 days.”

Neither representatives from C.A.C. Indus­tries, the contractor in charge of the Hud­­son Street project, nor Andrews Building Corp., the building’s management company, could be reached for comment.  

“Do we just eat this and rack it up to one of those things?” said Casper. “I mean, Hurricane Sandy I understand. I would think this is preventable.”