A recent heat wave sent a surge of sizzling frustration through Cullum Tower, the senior citizen building at 6299 Grand Ave. The 17-story building, owned by the federally-funded North Bergen Housing Authority, is undergoing major renovations, and, right in time for the intense heat, the exterior renovation caused problems with the air conditioners in 23 apartments.
Authority Executive Director Diane Peirano-Ingvaldsen recently explained how the agency has dealt with the pronlem.
Some tenant-owned air conditioners did not work with the exterior renovation.
Peirano-Ingvaldsen said the tenants never complained to management but instead went to the press, causing reporters to converge on the building last month. She believes that one of the tenants contacted the press, and that one of Mayor Nicholas Sacco’s political critics told the news reporters that people were going to be evicted.
Peirano-Ingvaldsen said that tenants had also heard they’d be thrown out if they complained.
“Nobody’s throwing anyone out; that’s absolutely stupid,” she said.
Residents weighed in on the inconvenience they experienced during the heat wave.
“Everything will be taken care of; this blew out of proportion,” said Al Dericco, one of the senior residents. “[Peirano-Ingvaldsen] knows what she’s doing here. I’ve been here almost 40 years and I used to work here. This place runs good.”
“Everything will be taken care of, this blew out of proportion.” – Al Dericco
The Board of Commissioners, under an emergency resolution, allowed Peirano-Ingvaldsen to purchase 30 12,000-BTU units, at $692 each, from reserve funds in the city budget. The reserve will be reimbursed by the tenants who choose to keep the units, since the tenants have always been required to supply their own air conditioners.
Peirano-Ingvaldsen said tenants were notified while the contractor was doing the scaffolding that their small air conditioners might not work. To accommodate the tenants, cooling centers were put in place which ran 24 hours and 7 days a week. One was located in Cullum’s community room while the other two were in Lawler Towers and in Terrace Apartments. Peirano-Ingvaldsen said that anyone could come to the cooling centers.
Why all the colors?
Several Housing Authority buildings in town are undergoing renovations. Each building director was asked to submit a five-year plan in order to utilize specific federal funding for renovations.
The renovations to Cullum Tower began about one year ago.
Phil Swibinski, spokesperson for the Housing Authority, said that the project is “to improve its energy efficiency and insulation.” He also wanted to make clear that the mayor and commissioners have no direct control over the Cullum building.
“When work is completed the building will be far more efficient, with reduced heating costs in the winter,” said Swibinski.
One interesting feature is that the exterior of the building, which was fading and exposing the steel, is getting new multi-colored square paneling, making it one of the county’s most colorful buildings.
Peirano-Ingvaldsen said the material for the outside is Alucobond, which comes in a variety of colors.
“The architect [Lothrop Associates] wanted to put something up that would complement the area,” said Peirano-Ingvaldsen.
The original design of the building was blue, which Peirano-Ingvaldsen said had faded, and although they attempted to clean it, the color was still dull.
The building has an abundance of colors that can be seen by commuters.
“People coming in from the turnpike can see the building, people on Route 3 see the building,” said Peirano-Ingvaldsen. “When you’re driving on the turnpike it’s amazing how the colors just change.”
Peirano-Ingvaldsen said the material chosen is visually appealing and will last longer than the previous material.
Time for change
What had Peirano-Ingvaldsen concerned were the exposed columns that were starting to spall, meaning that the rebar, which is a reinforced steel bar, was starting to show.
“The issue was that a person could get hit with a piece of the concrete,” said Peirano-Ingvaldsen.
She also noted, “Prior to the exterior renovation they were at a R2 energy rating factor and are currently at R17. Normally a R15 energy factor means that the building is in good shape.”
The wind blows from the west, and trying to reduce energy costs and water infiltration caused much of the need for renovation.
Marilyn Rotolo was has been the manager of the building for nearly 23 years had been getting various complaints about wind infiltration.
One of the alternatives was to put up curtain walls, but that meant exterior and interior work and tenants would not be able to live in their apartments during renovations. Alucobond was chosen because it would only require exterior work to the building.
“The Board of Commissioners were very happy when we showed them the sample board,” said Peirano-Ingvaldsen.
There are two phases of the exterior renovation. Phase one is part of the south side, all of the west, and all of the north, which is almost three quarters of the building, costing $4.5 million. Phase two is the back portion of the building is considerably smaller costing $1.5 million. Currently about 65 percent of the work is done.
Several other Housing Autnority buildings have undergone renovations, including Lawler Towers (senior/disabled) and Meadowview Village (low income housing).
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at email@example.com