Volume 20, Number 31 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 14 - 20, 2007

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90 West woes

Tenants of 90 West St. have to sign a broad release form before they can receive any compensation for the flood that forced them out of their home for eight days.

The release form is “really scary,” tenant Bryan Olsen told the Community Board 1 World Trade Center Committee Monday night. “To make that be the only way we get our money back is disconcerting.”

The flood occurred Nov. 26 when an uncapped Port Authority sewer pipe poured rainwater and sewage into the basement of 90 West St.

In signing, the tenants release the Port and its contractors from liability and “forego any further claims [they] may otherwise have arising from the Nov. 26, 2007 occurrence.” Port Authority’s insurance company requires the language in the release, said Glenn Guzi, a Port Authority program manager.

“The claim form is relative to out-of-pocket expenses,” Guzi repeated throughout the meeting. But tenants who are concerned about the presence of E. coli in the building after the flood, worry that they could get sick and not receive compensation.

“It may be a standard release, but the language is so broad,” said Bill Love, a C.B. 1 member who is also an attorney. “If you’re willing to say [that the release only applies to out-of-pocket expenses] in public, you should be willing to put it in writing.”

“Asking tenants to sign a release is unacceptable,” Julie Menin, C.B. 1’s chairperson and an attorney, said in a phone interview. Board members urged the Port Authority to either drop or alter the release. Guzi promised that the Port would talk to its insurance company about the language.

Just over half the tenants have signed the release. Tenants from 185 of the 410 apartments have received checks, with about 40 more pending, Guzi said.

Tenants have until Jan. 26, 2008 to sign the release form and collect Port Authority’s offer of $750 a night, with no receipts necessary. Port Authority is also settling claims for larger expenses on a case-by-case basis, with documentation required.

— Julie Shapiro

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