New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Nothing Succeeds Like Excess

For a hallway renovation at an Upper East Side co-op in the spring, the plan was to remove old wallpaper and replace worn carpeting. But in the process, former board member Marion Preston realized that a previous board had ordered a huge supply of excess wallpaper and carpet.

“They had extra of everything just in case, but no one ever used it or needed it,” Preston says. “For our job, we had all-new material, so we obviously didn’t need this anymore. I couldn’t bear to just toss it out. It was still in its original packaging.”

But what to do?

Some charities didn’t want the items and others said they would take it only if Preston could arrange to deliver, which wasn’t logistically or economically feasible. The solution she found was Build It Green! NYC, a non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials that serves as a place to donate and buy thousands of different kinds of goods for reuse. In addition to private homeowners, donations come in through hotels, contractors, commercial building owners, theater and entertainment companies, and others.

“I wanted to find a place where someone would actually use [the wallpaper and carpeting],” says Preston, the former treasurer of the board at the 111-unit co-op.

Here’s how it works. Say you are replacing your kitchen cabinets and the old ones are in good condition. Instead of having your contractor demolish the cabinets and send them to a landfill, Build It Green will “deconstruct” them from your home and resell them at a steep discount. On the flip side, you say you need kitchen cabinets? Go to Build It Green (, check out their selection, and get a great deal.

Condos and co-ops are not a huge percentage of the customers that donate to or buy from the non-profit, admits Jaclyn Jablkowski, a Build It Green spokeswoman. But, she says, there are plenty of ways that co-ops and condos could use the company’s wares for common spaces. The group has thousands of items at its locations in Astoria, Queens and Gowanus, Brooklyn. There are doors, molding, lumber, trim, lighting, windows, cabinets, raw marble and granite, metal studs, and furniture.

Looking for lobby or hallway furniture? There are dozens of tables, chairs, and desks to choose from. Hoping to install or renovate a common area kitchenette? You can score a Viking oven for about half the price of retail. If you are partial to red and were looking for paint, there are 200 brand-new quarts of Glidden eggshell finish in “Red Delicious” for $2 each. Fixing up a laundry area floor? How about a 32-by-12-foot roll of linoleum in slate gray for $150? If for some reason you need 24-by-24-inch Armstrong acoustical ceiling tiles, Build It Green has 475 priced at a rock-bottom $1.55 each (a savings of almost $4 a tile).

“We price all of our materials at between 40 and 80 percent off regular retail prices,” says Jablkowski. “Our inventory changes every day.”

When it comes to the donation side, condos or co-ops undertaking renovations could donate old windows or lighting, even wood paneling, molding, marble, or granite banisters and radiators.

“It’s hard to know what we will be able to take, so the first step is to e-mail a photograph of the item to our deconstruction team,” says Jablkowski. That way, workers can determine whether the items can be accepted and whether it is large or valuable enough for the team to come and get it. Generally, donations have to be worth about $1,500 in resale value to warrant a pickup.

Those who believe their items are worth more than $5,000 can claim a tax benefit, provided they hire a third-party appraiser. (In the case of Preston’s donation of the wallpaper and carpet, she says the co-op didn’t pursue a tax credit.)

But there are other benefits. Donating can save a co-op or condo disposal fees or labor time for a contractor. “Plus, of course, there are just the bottom-line environmental benefits of knowing that the things can be used again,” Jablkowski says. “It’s all about improving our environment and making New York City a greener place.”

Subscriber Login

Ask the Experts

learn more

Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?