Park Towne Place residents unhappy with management’s handling of the aftermath of the Ida flooding

Angelica Steele regained access to her apartment in Park Towne Place on Labor Day, but said Wednesday she was unsure when she would return to the four-building complex along Ben Franklin Parkway. A week after all residents were forced to evacuate the high-rise community, due to historic flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, Steele remains with his parents in Levittown, writing a letter to Park management Towne Place.

Steele, 22, said his car and other vehicles were still in the underground parking lot at the complex. When the flood waters of the Schuylkill River reached their peak, his vehicle was completely submerged. Neither his auto insurance nor his renter’s insurance will cover the damage.

“I’m very lucky. (My parents) offered to borrow their extra car, but I don’t feel comfortable parking on the street with the craziness of things right now,” Steele said. , who lives in South Park Towne Place. tower. “As my car is still in the basement, I am not allowed to touch it or even to enter. So there is no place to park, and (I don’t know ) what to do with my own car at that point. ”

It took three days for Park Towne Place, located between 22nd and 24th streets just off the boardwalk, to be deemed safe for most residents, according to the Philadelphia Department of Licensing and Inspections. Water was pumped out and utilities were restored to the buildings. BBut uncertainty and frustration abound for Steele and others, who voice grievances over how management handled the century-long natural disaster.

“We don’t want to blame anybody or get anyone fired or anything like that,” Steele said. “It’s just, it feels like there hasn’t been a lot of compassion, and we just want a little bit of that and some help with the things we’re going through.”

90921 Park Towne Place parking lot floodedCourtesy of / Angelica Steele

Residents of Park Towne Place, a four-tower apartment complex not far from the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, were ordered to evacuate their homes on Thursday, September 2, 2021, due to flooding caused by the storms generated by what had been Hurricane Ida.

Residents of Park Towne Place were first notified of flooding reaching the South Tower just after 4 a.m. on Thursday, September 2, according to emails shared with PhillyVoice. Steele and others wonder why it took so long for an alert to go off when they said several people reported flooding to staff as early as 2 a.m.

Another concern mentioned by four residents who spoke to PhillyVoice: It took management about four hours after that first email to make an announcement using Park Towne Place’s emergency speaker system which diffuses in the 900 units and more.

“They test it quite frequently,” said Dennis Samuel, a 27-year-old East Tower resident. “I was so surprised that I didn’t hear this at, say, 4 a.m. because I know people went to reception and mentioned the water leak in the basement and some of it, like flooding a bit. And at this point I guess they just turn on the intercom system (and) make sure everyone is awake. Even though it was six ( morning), that would have been enough time for everyone to get their car out. ”

Steele described being woken up around 8:30 am by the emergency loudspeaker system “telling people to move their cars for the incoming fire trucks.” Less than two hours later, residents received an email stating that electricity would be cut to all buildings “to keep the community safe.” An hour later, residents were ordered to evacuate immediately and were told that the doors to the buildings would be locked at 12:45 p.m.

Management directed the displaced residents to an American Red Cross drop-in center at West Philadelphia High School, and the city’s emergency management office coordinated with SEPTA to provide transportation to the school. .

Park Towne Place general manager Scott Seeley did not respond to a request for comment. Stephanie Joslin, director of corporate communications for Park Towne Place property, Air Communities, said she and a Denver-based crisis team have assisted field staff in Philadelphia by sending text and email alerts. e-mail to residents.

“Letting residents know what was going on was high on their priority list, but I don’t have exact details as to when this first notification was first sent versus when our team was at home. aware of what was going on, ”Joslin said.

On the evening of September 2, residents received an email telling them that they would be allowed to collect items from their apartments between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. the next day. Steele, however, said the plan was confusing when they were then ordered to email Seeley with their names, apartment numbers, phone numbers and “time preference” to return. in their units.

“When they finally started letting people in, they started letting them in in groups of two, and then it moved to groups of five, (and) you were only given 15 minutes,” he said. she declared. “… They were arguing with people who were like, ‘Please let me go upstairs. I have some medicine there, I forgot them.'”

Samuel said he thought the staff were “friendly” and “understandable” during the recovery process. He blamed the confusion on management.

“It was a really weird type of procedure,” he said. “Every two seconds they kept changing it.”

90921 Towne Place Flood Park.jpgCourtesy of / Angelica Steele

Residents of Park Towne Place were allowed to return home on Monday, September 6.

More worrying than the logistics of September 3, residents said, were the conditions of some apartments upon their return.

After the flooding, residents of Park Towne Place communicated with each other – and shared information and experiences – using a Discord server. Some described how their belongings were crammed in the middle of their apartments. Some said they threw away insulin and other prescription drugs when teams removed perishables from refrigerators after the power went out.

Residents who contacted Park Towne Place management left messages on Discord that the resort had hired at least two companies to clean up the apartments after the towers were evacuated. Steele posted a message saying some residents are seeking to report inappropriate medication disposal.

“The intention and the goal for us to clean these refrigerators was to eliminate any hazard,” said Joslin of Air Communities. “At the time this refrigerator clean-up took place, our team was in disaster recovery mode, moving extremely fast trying to clean 900 apartments and eliminate these dangers. These types of situations, this rapidity, can have caused accidental withdrawal or rejection of things that didn’t need to be, and that’s unfortunate.

“We encourage residents who have had problems or questions to email us, speak to us individually, and we will approach them (and) work with them as much as possible,” she added.

When the green light to return to Park Towne Place was given on Monday, management mailed residents that each would receive a $ 500 rent credit “to help cover expenses incurred during this unprecedented time” .

The payments, what Joslin called a “good faith” gesture, were announced about 24 hours after more than 100 residents signed a letter sent to Air Communities President Keith Kimmel listing the actions they would like to see. that the apartment complex takes to remedy the situation. how the management of Park Towne Place handled the natural disaster.

“We know everyone’s situation is different,” said Joslin. “At the end of the day, our feeling is that our team worked tirelessly over the holiday weekend to get our residents home as quickly as possible. “

90921 Park Towne Place floodwaters.jpegCourtesy of / Angelica Steele

Crews spent days pumping water from the Park Towne Place property near 22nd Street and Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia after low lying areas of the complex flooded.

According to a copy of the letter obtained by PhillyVoice, some of the residents’ requests include:

• Early termination of the lease without penalty for 30 days
• Reimburse residents who have had to pay auto insurance deductibles, as well as pay any uninsured amount a resident owed on a loan for a vehicle totaled
• Hold companies that cleaned apartment refrigerators responsible for the cost of non-perishable items that were thrown away.
• Provide residents with copies of the facility’s emergency planning protocol

At this time, it appears that Park Towne Place will not allow early termination of the leases. A resident of the Discord server shared a screenshot of an email from Seeley saying residents would have to provide 60 days written notice and pay a three-month fee if they break their lease.

Regarding the letter, Joslin said, “We know our response may not have been perfect, but we did our best during an unprecedented 150-year flood.”

The $ 500 credit may ease the frustrations of some residents, but Steele said the money won’t replace his entire car or cover what people paid in hotel or Airbnb fees while on the move. She and others also have a problem with management’s insistence on addressing concerns individually and not speaking to residents as a community.

“I don’t mean they are 100% responsible for everything, it was a natural disaster,” Steele said. “But he… doesn’t feel like they’re doing enough to help us.”

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