Putting the Green in Greenwich

 A student found fungus on their shoes. || Photo credit: Lauren Pannell

A student found fungus on their shoes. || Photo credit: Lauren Pannell

 

Walk into a new, studio apartment at 102 Greenwich, and you might expect to see a rustic, exposed brick wall. Maybe you expect to go drink coffee on the balcony, overlooking the communal courtyard.

Why? Because that’s how King’s videos market the newest student apartments.

But the first thing that you notice is the overwhelming humidity, which resident Freshman Jolie Richardson compared to the likes of “a reptile room.” Look a little closer—in the kitchen cabinets, the closet or on top of the air condition unit—and you might discover something worse: growing spots of a green, fuzzy substance.

“It looks like something grown out of a petri dish,” Richardson said. “It has fuzzy spores, and it seems like it started from one spot of moisture and then spread through the room. It is green and sometimes white.”

Several King’s students like Richardson are vocally complaining about living conditions in 102 Greenwich, a former hotel that King’s purchased this summer for a reported $19.2 million, according to The Real Deal, a local real estate publication. King’s housing administrators say they have worked hard to get the building ready for the fall, but they have admitted the hotel came with more hiccups than they realized initially.

Currently, the major issue is whether mold or mildew plagues 102 Greenwich. The NYC Department of Health classifies mildew as a type of mold which is a type of fungi (and the dictionary classifies the fungi as hyphae).

The King’s College is waiting for lab results to determine if the fungi in the building are mold or mildew. Fungal growth will be referred to as mildew in this story for clarity.

“We are taking student reports seriously and acting as quickly as possible to get mold tests done so we can know whether there are mold issues,” said Michelle Lambdin, FiDi housing director.

Living so near to water in a particularly humid summer can cause moisture in buildings, according to NYC health officials. The moisture in 102 Greenwich has been so severe that sophomore Hope Feller has “been going to sleep on a damp pillow for the past two weeks.”

Feller and her roommate were relocated briefly at the beginning of the year while their room was being repaired from leaking damages that came from the roof. Shortly after moving back into their original apartment, Feller discovered the growing mildew.

“[The mildew is] in the cabinet, where we keep our food,” Feller said. “It appears to be in the toilet area, the toilet bowl. And I even found some on my bed as well. I literally just noticed it last night, and I immediately washed all of my stuff. I slept on a sleeping bag on the floor.”

 Back of Hope Feller’s cabinet who said that all her food was “sealed” and no fungus had been growing on. it || Photo Credit: Hope Feller

Back of Hope Feller’s cabinet who said that all her food was “sealed” and no fungus had been growing on. it || Photo Credit: Hope Feller

The problems upperclassmen have struggled with in Greenwich have also been discovered in the apartments of several freshmen.

“I’ve talked to freshman and was like, ‘How’s King’s going for you?’ and they say, ‘Oh, fine. But my $400 dollar jacket was ruined because there was mold all over it,’” Feller said.

Freshman Lauren Pannell first discovered mildew growth after Fall Retreat, September 8, when she returned to her Greenwich Street apartment to find her electricity had turned off unexpectedly for the second time. This meant the A/C unit was off as well, leaving her room warmer and more humid than normal.

“There was a lot of mold damage, including some clothes that had still had tags on them. Which is upwards $1,300 worth of damage: like Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and cashmere clothing. But stuff stacked in my drawers were the real problem. Some of the things had tags on them and the ink from the tags seeped through the clothes and stained them,” Pannell said.

 Lauren Pannell's sweater with ink stains from wet tags.

Lauren Pannell's sweater with ink stains from wet tags.

Pannell filled out three maintenance request forms and even reached out to King’s faculty, but she never received an answer.

“Ideally, the school should have responded to my maintenance requests,” Pannell said.

To combat the situation, Pannell used a YouTube video to teach herself how to fix her own A/C, bought a dehumidifier and frequently returns to her room in between classes to clean off moisture and mildew that build up on her A/C.

“The only response I have gotten is general emails sent out to the whole building about the mold issue; I have never gotten a specific email sent to myself,” Pannell said. “The electricity has never been mentioned.”

The school responded back to Pannell on Wednesday, September 19 and offered to compensate her and have helped her with fixing the problem.*

All the while, Pannell is concerned about the high cost her parents are paying for student housing and has not informed them about the mold issue.

“[If they knew] they would be like ‘No we aren't doing that, we are pulling you,’” Pannell said,  “and I don't want to get pulled because I love King’s and the academics, but the living conditions are like a third world country.”

 Lauren Pannell's Brooks Brothers blazer with damage.

Lauren Pannell's Brooks Brothers blazer with damage.

For King’s students, finding mildew anywhere in their apartment—especially on clothes and other personal property—has distressed many students living in the building. It’s had the same effect on staff tasked with maintaining the building.

David Leedy, Dean of Students, said the first step is addressing the root of the issue.

“When it comes to mildew or mold, that stuff grows in moist conditions,” Leedy said. “So the underlying issue that we’re tackling is the moisture issue.”

The school says it has been purchasing dehumidifiers over the past week, and they should now have dehumidifiers for all the rooms in Greenwich. If used properly, this should significantly decrease the amount of moisture contained within the rooms, but the school acknowledges this may not mark the end of the scenario.

“We did a roof repair this summer,” Leedy said, “but we’re having contractors come back to look at the roof again and make sure that any source of water that could come into the building is being stopped.”

 

“I’ve been going to sleep on a damp pillow for the past two weeks.”

- Hope Feller

 

In the meantime, there are other steps being taken to remove all mildew from the building.

“We brought in an expert to do mold testing on Tuesday,” Leedy said. “They test the air for mold, and they’ll issue us a report with the results. That will tell us if there’s anything of concern in the air.”

These reports are expected to return to the school early this week. While there is a chance the mildew is non-toxic, he says the school is prepared to take steps to ensure student safety in whatever way necessary.

“If the test revealed there was toxic mold, we would clear that room, and we’d find a place for them to stay while we did a complete remediation of that room. That’s the first step,” Leedy said. “If there was mold in the wall, even. They’d take out the drywall, they’d go through the whole process to completely eradicate the mold. And then we’d start testing other rooms. We’ll do this until we’re completely satisfied the building is mold free.”

King’s housing and administration say they are even more determined to resolve these issues and create a great on-campus living space.

“We want all our housing to be up to that sort of Kingsian standard,” Leedy said. “It’s not perfect, of course, because this is New York City: where you live builds your character. But there are continuous conversations to ensure not only that we’re fixing maintenance issues, but to really make upgrades and deliver the best possible experience for students.”


 

*A clarification was made to include that The King’s College offered compensation for Lauren Pannell’s damages. At the time of the interview, Pannell was unaware that the school offered her compensation.