Rain hits the roof. Drywall gets soaked and crumbles onto the desk of a worker. It’s late in the spring semester and yet, construction still has not begun.
In December 2018, a crack in the ceiling of Lee House appeared, not stirring up any concerns. Throughout the winter months and seasonal weather, the crack grew bigger. According to a worker at Lee House, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, the crack caused water to leak in and the entire kitchen ceiling to “cave in.”
In response to this, plastic was used to cover up the ceiling and kitchen appliances were moved over.
Lee House is the Saint Peter’s University Admissions building located on John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Prospective students go to Lee House to meet with admissions counselors or to get a tour of the campus. Lee House employs work-studies who work as admissions assistants, admissions counselors and directors.
Milos Topic, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, says that the roof conditions have been “deteriorating” throughout the years, and maintenance repairs have been done, but the problem became increasingly worse this year.
Employees began to be moved at the end of May to the basement of Lee House while construction began on the roof. After a storm hit the building over the summer, more counselors and others moved their offices to the basement, McDermott and other buildings.
Kristy Massaro, the International Admissions Director, is now in the Graduate Admissions Department, while Kacy Tillotson, the General Director of Admissions, is in the Provost’s Office located by Enrollment Services. The Admissions Center is on the ground floor of McDermott and Admissions Operations, with their counselors, are located on the ground floor of Lee House.
According to Topic, the replacement of the roof began in July 2019 and construction is expected to take 14 to 16 weeks to complete. Topic added the cost has not yet been calculated.
Valeria Moreno, an Admissions Assistant, says she was not told a completion date. She says she was told it could take months, a semester or a year.
And according to the same unidentified worker, if construction was completed by February of 2020, it would be “shocking.”
Moreno says with offices spread out, it becomes difficult for workers to engage with one another about work-related topics.
“We are separated from our bosses and other staff members. Admissions Operations stayed at Lee House. This makes it difficult for us to efficiently communicate and it affects our working relations,” said Moreno.
With workers placed in multiple locations, Moreno says work studies are constantly having to leave their offices to go to different buildings. She also says it affects campus tours.
“Now we have to be at the MacMahon Student Center [to] set up a table everyday for families and prospective students, which has been an issue for the admissions counselors…” said Moreno.
The location of workers is not the only aspect that has changed since the construction of Lee House began. Moreno says that the working conditions are different now because employees are being provided with “minimum working resources.” She says if a prospective student wishes to come to the Admissions Office, there is not an appropriate place to meet with counselors. She also mentions poor cleaning conditions.
“We have found roaches and little bugs in our working environment,” said Moreno.
Olga Vasquez, an admissions specialist, says she has spotted a bug once, but hasn’t seen any since.
Moreno is currently working on the ground floor of McDermott and Vasquez is located in the basement of Lee House.
According to Elizabeth Sullivan, the Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing, workers will be relocated for the entire duration of construction, which is a long process.
Topic says Lee House is a historic building in Jersey City that must be “preserved.” In order to preserve it, he said the approval process had to be changed. He had to get approval from the city’s historic preservation office for every material used.
“The approval process was additionally expanded to include the Historic Preservation of Jersey City. We, the University and the contractor, were required to obtain additional permits and approvals which took some time,” said Topic.
Topic says the project also needed financial approval from the Saint Peter’s capital budget, which was not distributed until July 2019.
According to Topic, so far Lee House’s old roof was completely removed and new 5/8” CDX plywood, copper flashings, Cooper Yankee gutters and leaders and Vermont black slate roof was installed.
Although work is being done on the roof of Lee House, Topic says no inside renovations have begun. There has been no reopening date set.
With construction underway, workers remain relocated, but stay positive.
Vasquez says that she cannot let the construction affect her work and she takes everything day by day. Moreno agrees.
“Nevertheless, we try to make it fun and nice. We are a team. We understand the issue and we keep working hard and welcoming everyone in the correct way, showing that there isn’t any challenge goodwill and friends cannot overcome,” said Moreno.