Five feet of stormwater
was found at 15 Exchange Place.

SECAUCUS, NJ–Hartz Mountain Industries, a major commercial property holder in New Jersey’s Meadowlands and New York, had 45 of its buildings go dark in last week’s super-storm, including the 15 Exchange Place office building one block from riverside in Jersey City: it swallowed five feet of storm water.

Building managers shut off the electrical systems as they watched the high water surge from a ninth-floor vantage point at the Jersey City building last Monday night – and as soon as it stopped, they began running pumps with generators and repairing elevator systems, circuitry and water damage.

As of this morning, says Salvatore Gentile, property manager for the CRE portfolio, said 33 of its buildings have re-opened, with power – and 15 Exchange Place is expected to come back online later today.

“The lobby’s not going to look pretty,” Gentile said of the 11-story Beaux Arts structure, which had a ribbon-cutting for a new Starbucks on the ground-floor retail-level the week before Sandy hit. “We’ve got people in there doing mold remediation on the sheetrock, so the vendors can reopen with a day or two.”

Yet Gentile marveled at the way emergency planning had functioned to prevent more crushing damage, and how the round-the-clock work of Hartz staff, utility crews and disaster teams made rapid recovery possible where it had appeared unlikely.

Gentile said that recovery operators had been contacted in advance of the storm, and that Hartz “got on their list,” so that help could come quickly.

“Still, my first estimate, right after the storm, was two to four weeks for getting the majority of our hardest-hit buildings back up,” he said. “It’s only been a week. It’s fairly incredible.”

Gentile, whose company is based in Secaucus, included “little heroes” and “positive surprises” in his description of what went right: He gave a warm shout-out to a Meadowlands pizzeria– Natoli’s on Secaucus’s Clarendon Street – that stayed open throughout the storm’s aftermath. “If not for them, I would not have been able to feed my guys. My crews are responsible for getting companies back in business, thousands of people back to work – and many days, that’s the one meal they got.”

UBS Financial Services, a 1 million-square-foot tenant at Hartz’s Lincoln Harbor complex in Weehawken, and Ernst & Young and the National Basketball Association, both with offices  at Harmon Cove in Secaucus, have all been able to continue operations with only minor hitches, Gentile said. The NBA has just begun its new season, he noted.

Harmon Cove was fully operational by last Wednesday, he said. There are 2,000 hotel rooms at the complex, which were open and fully occupied within a few days of Sandy’s worst.

The Hartz executive mentioned that his companies’ extensive use of solar panels on the roofs of its warehouse buildings had been a surprise bulwark amidst Sandy’s high winds. “We thought the panels would go flying,” Gentile said. “Instead, where the roof started to peel back, the weight of the panels held them down.”

Hartz Mountain owns and operates 200 properties with 38 million square feet in northern New Jersey and New York.