Luxury Buildings and Galleries Still Without Heat in West Chelsea

By Mathew Katz on December 6, 2012 7:21am 

CHELSEA — Spending $8.2 million on a three-bedroom penthouse loft will get you the ultimate in luxury and a view of the High Line  — but it won't keep you warm at night.

Pricey apartment buildings and art galleries in trendy West Chelsea still don't have working heat more than a month after Hurricane Sandy, with some likely to stay cold until January.

At the Spears Building at 525 W. 22nd St., tenants in the six-story converted loft building have dealt with power shutdowns on weekends and a total lack of heat since the storm. The building is packed full of amenities like in-unit laundries, 12-foot ceilings, a roof deck — everything you would expect from a luxury building, except for working heat.

"The boiler room, it just got so flooded," said the building's doorman, who said the heat might not come on until January. "We're lucky it's warm out right now."

However, Thursday's low temperatures were expected to be in the 30s, chillier than earlier in the week.

Many buildings in the increasingly chic areas of West Chelsea, particularly west of 10th Avenue, faced 4-foot high walls of water that destroyed lobbies and ruined priceless art. But as winter looms, tenants in the buildings are increasingly worried about the cold.

Elissa Burke, who heads up the condo board at the Spears Building, said that new boilers should arrive on Dec. 17, but it could take time to install them.

"We're still modifying the space so they're raised and won't get flooded," she said.

Management provided tenants with plug-in space heaters, though a planned power outage over the past weekend rendered them useless. Tenants will also be responsible for the entirety of their electric bill, which is likely to be hefty with all of the extra heaters using up power.

"We're all waiting for that first bill to come in, but I think everyone knows using this amount of electricity will add to it," Burke said.

Several apartments have working fireplaces that tenants have used for warmth, Burke added.

Across the street, Center548, home to an event venue and art studios, had no working boiler heat, and workers in the building said they were not sure when it will return, though they had electric heaters in the meantime.

"They miss a lot of space when it gets cold," said one employee at the building who declined to give her name.

Flemister House — a homeless shelter on chic West 22nd Street — was in even worse shape, with no heat or hot water.

At Guided By Invoices Gallery at 558 W. 21st St., water rushed into the building's basement boiler during Sandy, but its landlord planned for the possibility of flooding years ago and added an overhead heater, gallery director Anne-Brigitte Sirois said.

"The owner was really smart," she said. "All the water drained down, but we have a way to stay warm."

On West 23rd Street, most buildings had all of their amenities back, though several saw extensive water damage to their lobbies.

"We have everything back except the walls and my desk," said the doorman at  555 W. 23rd St., where flooding gutted the luxury building's lobby. 

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