Thursday, January 24, 2013

Architectural Voyeurism: 4th Avenue

                                   M I N E C R A F T

Oh Sh!t, My Sewer Main Line Done Broke...

I finally paid my overdue NYC DEP water bill last week after they threatened to turn my account over to a collection agency.  If you have not visited the DEP web site and registered an online account you really should.  They can provide homeowners with voyeuristic water usage graphs on an hourly basis. For example, I can determine just how many gallons of H20 were consumed by my
new  Toto Washlet during last night's 35 minute pleasure ride.

It was especially helpful last summer in determining just when my unsupervised hot water heater sprang a leak at IMBY's main east coast headquarters while we were away on vacation.   Insightful,  an electronic meter diligently documented over several hours my wasted water usage from what most likely, according to the DEP graphs,  began as a slow trickle  that eventually progressed to an all out gushing onslaught before my neighbor called to inform me of our mutual basement water problem and shut off the main.

So here is a recent DEP press release that I stumbled upon.  I'm sure everyone who pays a water bill will be getting some kind of sales pitch in the mail in the coming days.  I'm going to highlight some things in red.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 13-04    January 10, 2013

Department of Environmental Protection and American Water Resources Offer Homeowner Service Line Protection Programs Optional Programs Will Shield Homeowners from Unexpected Cost of Repairs to Private Water and Sewer Lines

 New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland and American Water Resources (AWR) President Malcolm D. Conner today announced the launch of the water and sewer service line protection programs for residential properties throughout the five boroughs. Property owners in New York City are responsible for maintaining their water and sewer service lines, which are buried underground and run from a building to the City-owned mains under the street. On average, it costs property owners between $3,000 and $5,000 to repair a water line break and between $10,000 and $15,000 to repair a sewer line break in New York City. Homeowners may enroll in the program and pay a monthly fee to cover potential service line issues.

 “The service line protection programs are a key component of our ongoing effort to provide the best possible customer service,” said DEP Commissioner Strickland. “By informing property owners about their responsibilities and providing an optional and affordable way to protect them from unexpected repair costs, the Programs offer a valuable service to our ratepayers throughout the City.”

 “American Water Resources has been providing similar protection programs to homeowners in Long Island and other parts of New York State for more than 10 years, and we are proud to now provide a customized protection program for homeowners in New York City,” said Malcolm D. Conner, President of American Water Resources.

 To help property owners better manage these risks and the high costs of service line breaks, the New York City Water Board issued a Request for Proposals from qualified providers for service line protection programs in 2012. After a thorough review, AWR was awarded a contract to administer the service line protection programs for roughly 670,000 eligible properties in New York City.

 Water customers may participate in the service line protection programs at a present rate of $3.99 per month for water line protection and $7.99 per month for sewer line protection. For future years, the New York City Water Board will approve annual rates for the service line protection programs at the same time it adopts DEP water and sewer service charges. Customers who choose to join the programs may elect to protect both their water and sewer lines, or one or the other. They may also discontinue their involvement with the programs at any time if they no longer wish to participate. Further information about the programs and how to join will be mailed to eligible property owners beginning today, and is available online at or by calling 1-888-300-3570.

 The service line protection programs provide unlimited protection for covered repairs from normal wear and tear and basic restoration of affected property. They will also provide for an unlimited number of claims, 24/7 customer service, and quick response time by NYC-Licensed Master Plumbers who are pre-qualified to perform needed repairs. For the convenience of those who choose to participate, there are no claim forms to submit and no deductibles, and the protection programs fee will be itemized and included on each participating customer’s regular DEP water and sewer bill.

 At no cost to the City and an affordable cost to the customer, AWR will fully manage the protection programs – from educating homeowners about their responsibility to maintain their water and sewer service lines, to establishing a local contractor network and providing 24-hour customer service. AWR’s local contractor network is comprised of NYC-Licensed Master Plumbers, including their affiliated staff of over 200 local workers, who will be on-call to respond to the service line issues of participating customers.

 In addition to managing the service line protection programs for New York City, AWR also provides Water Line Protection, Sewer Line Protection, and In-Home Plumbing Emergency Programs to homeowners in 35 states, and AWR currently services nearly one million contracts. A subsidiary of American Water, AWR has been providing service line programs to homeowners for more than ten years and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

 Establishment of the Service Line Protection Programs is a key component of DEP’s Strategy 2011-2014, a far-reaching strategic plan that lays out 100 distinct initiatives to help make it the safest, most efficient, cost-effective, and transparent water utility in the nation. DEP is the largest municipally owned water and wastewater utility in the United States. DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than one billion gallons of high quality water each day to more than nine million residents, including eight million in New York City. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. Approximately 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts bring water to homes and businesses throughout the five boroughs, and 7,500 miles of sewer lines and 96 pump stations take wastewater to 14 in-city treatment plants. DEP has nearly 6,000 employees, including nearly 1,000 in the upstate watershed. For more information, visit, like us on aacebook at, or follow us on Twitter at

This is an Insurance policy.  You are essentially betting that your pipes will fail.

So I read through several PDFs provided by American Water Resources and this seems to be the poop.

First if you owe the DEP more than $500 you can't participate. LOL

The monthly fee you pay for coverage now will most certainly go up, and up.

There are multiple policies to combine or not combine coverage... Policies that will cover water lines, water lines PLUS sewer lines,  limited coverage and unlimited coverage.  LINK

AWR doesn't actually repair your plumbing pipes, they have a database of NYC approved contractors who they will hire to do the work.  You can not choose who you want to do the work.

There is also a long list, typical insurance company reasons, why they might need NOT cover you if something eventually goes wrong.  Natural disasters, sink holes, pre existing conditions ect, ect, ect.

If you are interested I recommend reading the fine print before calling to ask additional questions.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why are you mailing me about my water and sewer line responsibility?
A. Most NYC Homeowners are not aware they are responsible for their water and sewer service lines. Repairs to these lines can be costly and they are not covered by most homeowners insurance policies.

 Q. What Programs are being offered?
A. Water Service Line Protection Program (WLPP) – Covers homeowners from the expense of paying for repairs due to water line leaks or breaks. Sewer Service Line Protection Program (SLPP) – Covers homeowners from the expense of paying for repairs due to sewer line clogs or breaks.

Q. Who is American Water Resources?
A. American Water Resources (AWR) was selected by the New York City Water Board as the exclusive service line protection provider of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). AWR is the leading provider of Water and Sewer Service Line Protection Programs protecting customers in 35 states. AWR is a subsidiary of American Water, the largest investor-owned water company in the country servicing 16 million homeowners for the past 125 years.

Q. Who is responsible if these service lines should need repair work?
A. DEP is only responsible for water and sewer mains in the street. As the property owner you would be responsible for the service line repairs, and most homeowners insurance policies do not cover service line repair costs.

Q. Should I be concerned about potential problems?
A. Normal wear and usage such as aging pipes, invasive tree roots, and seasonal changes can cause your water line to leak or break, or your sewer line to clog or break. A typical water line repair costs an NYC homeowner between $3,000 and $5,000 while an average sewer line replacement costs between $10,000 and $15,000.

Q. What does the Water and Sewer Service Line Protection Program cost?
A. The introductory offer of $3.99 per month for the Water Service Line Protection Program and $7.99 per month for the Sewer Service Line Protection Program, including taxes, is good through June 30, 2013. As of July 1, 2013 the monthly cost for the Water Service Line Protection Program will increase to $4.49 per month plus tax. The Sewer Service Line Protection Program will be $7.99 per month, plus tax.

Q. What benefits do NYC homeowners receive?
A. AWR provides unlimited protection for covered water and sewer line repairs, and there is no limit on service calls. In emergency situations, a local plumber will arrive within 4 hours of your phone call. Emergency repairs are classified as those required by DEP's issuance of a 10-day notice or the issuance of Public Health Order. All other repairs are classified as non-emergencies.

Q. What is included in basic site restoration?
A. AWR will provide basic site restoration including backfilling, raking, and reseeding of the repair area. Landscaping, private walkways, and driveways are not included in basic restoration. These surfaces will be backfilled and covered with an asphalt patch. Public roadways, sidewalks, curbing, and driveway aprons are covered under the program and will be restored to city code.

Here are the actual AWR terms and conditions: LINK

SO what do you think?  If you own a home with a 50+ year old lead water line and an as least as old clay-pipe sewer main line prone to tree root clogs it may be worth your while.  I'm interested in what people think. My personal pipes are ancient.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Skin: 297 15th Street Wood Frame Row House

Streetscape:  Unwrapping the bandages 297 15th Street unveils a restorative face lift.  Petrola Productions, LLC ??? purchased this wooden row house for $812,000  in May of 2011.  The renovation and conversion of this 2 family into a 1 family is brought to you by architect BENJAMIN ELLIS  of the Gowanus based firm  ELLIS +DONNELLY STUDIO  
UPDATE: Well someone just informed me that this is Dan Goldstein's new house.  This NYTimes story is a hoot.  Seems a neighbor objected to his building a legally permitted extension on the back of this house.  You can see it for your self by following this link.  The neighbor who raised the stink went ahead and sold her house for $1.4 million.  Wow, that's a great price for a wood frame.  Thing that makes me laugh is she is an administrative judge for the Environmental Control Board, one of the least effective links in our ongoing battle to control rogue contractors/speculators operating in the South Slope.  I could name two dozen neighboring properties developed in the last few years with thousands and thousands of unpaid ECB fines on the books, money still owed to the good people of Brooklyn.  

Welcome Goldstein family... Congratulations on your beautiful new home.

Early photo before completion of cornice shows new roof top bulkhead.

Bulk head not so visible now that the cornice has been completed.  Yes, plans do call for a hot tub installation

Architectural Voyeurism: 15th Street Woody