To get to Randy Klein's first-floor apartment at 498 West End Ave., you have to use a temporary entrance on 84th Street and walk through what was once a lobby and is now a gutted hallway filled with tools and plastic tarps.
Samson Management LLC, which bought the building in 2012 for $52.5 million, has promised that the completed lobby will be beautiful and garnished with marble, but Klein is frustrated with the slow progress and what he feels is disregard for the residents in the building.
Klein, who calls himself Samson's “worst enemy,” claims that the lobby was incorrectly measured, meaning that the marble had just been put in, then had to be loudly taken out again. He also says too much cement was laid on the floor of the second story, causing his ceiling to cave in, narrowly missing his Steinway piano and his wife's head.
While many of Klein's complaints are not exactly uncommon for buildings undergoing renovation, he believes Samson's handling of this construction has been particularly bungled. “We've gone through I think eight or nine site managers,” he said.
When the construction was started roughly three years ago, the building's tenants association negotiated a contract, with the help of attorney Sam Himmelstein, barring after-hours construction and arranging for rent abatements, which Klein says have been honored but are “not enough” to make up for the disturbances. Late-night work and lack of compensation are frequent sources of resident ire at sites all over the city.
Klein acknowledged that Himmelstein, who declined to comment for this article, has advised him against speaking out so vocally against Samson for fear of further damaging the company's relationship with residents, and added that he is acting independently and not speaking for the tenants association. Marla Ratner, a resident who represented the tenants' association in working with Himmelstein, also declined to comment.
The original agreement signed by the tenants gave December 31, 2015 as the end date of the project. In a statement provided by spokesman Steve Mangione, Samson said that “it is expected that virtually all of the construction in the entire 12-story building will be completed” in the next 30 days.
Perhaps Klein's main complaint is the little to no warning residents get about major disruptions. As a composer and musician who often works from home, Klein struggles to perfect his music over the sounds of construction. “I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Klein, who has lived in his apartment since 1977. Once, albeit after receiving two days' notice, Klein and his wife decided to take an impromptu vacation in anticipation of disruptive work. The work was still going on when they returned, so Samson put them up in a hotel.
As Klein described his frustrations with Samson's progress, from his office overlooking West End Avenue, a pipe outside his window burst and sent water spraying into the air. Since that incident last week, according to an email from Klein, the elevator has stopped working and the plates covering the burst pipe have yet to be secured.
“With a building in excess of 100 years old and a crumbling infrastructure that required replacement of all major systems -- including gas, electric and plumbing lines, as well as elevators and new windows -- we were well aware that our tenants were going to live through a substanstial construction project,” Samson said in its statement.