New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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Bob Weiner discusses his approach to large projects.
Large renovation projects can be tricky, but Bob Weiner is up for the challenge.
Bob Weiner, Board President
360 East 72nd Street
Bob Weiner has a vision. He sees a former white-brick building from another era transformed – step by step – into a property for the 21st century. The longtime president of the board of the 450-unit co-op at 360 East 72nd Street is clear about his goal: “Essentially, we’re trying to be competitive with the newer construction out there.” Weiner, a retired attorney who moved into the building in 1975 and joined the board a dozen years later, works methodically with the eight other board members to get each job done. “He can do that because he’s trusted by his constituents,” observes Stephen Stanczyk, a principal in Stephen Paul Design, who has been working for the past year on the gym and the lobby. Back in the late 1980s, Weiner was the guiding force behind getting major work done, including the expensive replacement of deteriorating white brick with red.
“The board here is great, the finances are great, and I’ve never seen any board complete so many projects so quickly, on time and on budget,” says Jeanette Rodriguez, who has been the co-op’s onsite property manager for Charles H. Greenthal since 2012. “In the time I’ve been here, they’ve begun four projects.” While she says all nine board members are smart and dedicated to the well-being of the co-op, she believes Weiner is the glue that holds it all together. “I would say that 75 percent of it is him. He takes every project head-on. There’s a different dynamic here.”
You’ve done many projects over the years. How do you choose one over the other?
You prioritize. We did the essential work first and then looked at the lobby. It’s 20 years old. It’s worn. It was not a great design. It’s impressive because of its size, because of the fountain. Certainly it’s aged in terms of look and just in terms of general wear and tear.
When planning a major project, how did you sell a costly refurbishment plan to your shareholders?
We had literally a year’s worth of communications with our shareholders about the pros and cons of putting in a gym that would replace part of our lobby. Every month, we were sending out different queries. One would be, “Should we have it?” Two, “If we have it, what’s it going to cost?” Three, “What would be the rules?” Four, “What would be the equipment?” We basically addressed all of the issues in separate communications. At a shareholders’ meeting, it was overwhelmingly passed.
You’re eliminating some of your old lobby in the process?
We’ve had a lot of demand for putting in a gym. The upper lobby, as attractive as it is, was just not really usable space. It was used, but very sporadically.
You’re about to start work on adding a gym and redoing the lobby. Where is the money coming from?
The board initially passed a two-year assessment that came to about $600 annually for the average one-bedroom apartment. Following that, however, we gained a significant increase in the commercial rent, when Morgan Williams paid $550,000 to extend the Food Emporium lease. Then the board negotiated a management agreement with the 269-space garage, which will probably bring in around $750,000 a year over what the co-op had previously been receiving. Consequently, we may cancel the second year of the assessment. From a financial point of view, we’re actually stronger than we’ve ever been, and we’ve been a pretty strong building financially for many, many years.” (Starting in 2011, the board has passed regular cost-of-living maintenance increases, all of which included utilities: in 2011, 4%; 2012, 1%; 2013, 3%; 2014, 3%; 2015, 5%).
After so many projects, what do you think is the lesson you can offer? You’ll never satisfy everybody. We understand that there’s going to be a certain amount of faith that has to be given to us as a board and to our designer. Then the shareholders will hopefully be very pleased. In the end, you can have a great plan, but that can take you only so far. You also need to have the right professionals. I know my board is really, really impressed with Stephen – his diligence, his attention to detail, his creativity, all the things that you really want from a designer. Another piece of this, he’s very practical in terms of being able to save money. That’s important. You want someone who’s very conscientious when it comes to the cost.
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