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Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

“The Key Is Having Good People”

Newport East
Manhattan

It’s a massive building. Dubbed the Newport East, this 1960s co-op runs an entire block, from 75th to 76th Streets, along First Avenue in Manhattan. It houses a broad selection of residents – everything from young singles just out of college to families to retirees. The property started life with about 370 apartments, and is now – thanks to combinations – down to 342. The cooperative, managed by Douglas Elliman, has undertaken a number of projects. Board member Andrew Weiss, who has lived in the building for 38 years, acted as the de facto project manager.

You’ve lived in the building for a long time.

It was a rental when I came in.

Why did you join the board?

Someone left the board, and I was asked to join. It’s a real pleasure to be here, because every person on it absolutely has the best interests of the building at heart, and the board works in a collegial fashion. When we discuss things, if people disagree, we talk until we reach a consensus.

What do you do in your non-board life?

I have a law degree, and I advise small- and medium-sized businesses. I also tutor kids in math. And I help others with investments.

What drew you to this building?

I was just out of law school. It was the first building I saw, and I liked the fact that, at least at the time, it was relatively new. The lobby was beautiful and there’s a pool.

What are some of the projects done on your watch?

We’ve replaced the boilers. We’re now working on the replacement of the chillers for the air conditioning system, and we’re also installing some new energy-efficient-related equipment to that – hot water heaters, controls, and other things.

Why did your building undertake so many projects?

The boilers were more than 35 years old, and they had probably gone to the end of their useful life. Everyone in the building wanted to become more green to begin with, and so, at that point in time, we faced a choice. We could either continue repairing the old boilers, or we could put in boilers that we thought would be both more energy-efficient and better for the environment. The chillers, too, were near the end of their useful life. We were, in fact, experiencing short periods of downtime during the summer. The boilers and the chillers, and a new series of ancillary hot water heaters, will allow us, during the summer, to make domestic hot water without having to run an entire boiler. The heat from the motors that run the chillers will also heat water for us. The engineer that we hired explained to us if we achieve a 15 percent potential energy savings, we’re going to be able to qualify for a rebate from NYSERDA [New York State Energy Research & Development Authority] in the area of $250,000.

Did you talk to the residents about this?

Yes, that’s one of the things that this building is very sensitive to. The key for all of the projects is to keep the residents informed of what we’re doing and when we’re doing it. We had a shareholders’ meeting, and we laid out for them not just this project, but all the anticipated capital projects that were coming up in the building. I’m the liaison between the building and the engineer, and in addition, this is a hands-on project where I actually have contact. The engineer is the project manager, but I have contact, sometimes daily, with the actual installer.

You keep on top of them?

We do. The key to this project is having good people working on it at every level – from the engineer to the actual contractor doing the work – and to have a board that’s vigilant and focused on the project as it’s progressing, to ensure that there are no things that are slipping between the cracks that could cause delay.

What advice would you give other people who are going to undertake projects like these?

Do your homework. Don’t rely completely on others. Stay vigilant. Remain active in the project even though you have good people working with you. The most important thing is to, in fact, hire and work with good people – professionals who have a real interest in doing something the right way. Tell them what your goals are, and get them to get on board with those goals.

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