Steven W. Birbach
President & CEO,
Vanderbilt Property Management
Be Flexible and Forward-Thinking
Setting the Scene
In 2015, a co-op we manage on the Upper West Side installed a dual-fuel boiler. This has advantages: sometimes the oil part won’t work and you can use gas; other times there’s a gas leak so Con Edison turns off your gas and then you have to use oil. In this particular building, we had just that problem. There was a gas leak on several risers going up to shareholders’ apartments. Con Edison “red-flagged” the building – meaning they shut the gas off – and before the service could be restored, each line had to be tested and pressurized, and several lines had to be repiped as well.
Following the Action
The property was now without heat, hot water, gas stoves, or gas dryers. We immediately contacted our plumber and had him switch over to oil so that the building’s heat and hot water would function. That was on day one, so nobody was inconvenienced. We then contacted a master plumber who came in to test the gas lines and find the leaks. It took months to get gas service restored. During that time, we did little things to ease the burden on the shareholders. For instance, at our request, the building’s laundry company provided electric dryers. These take about 15 minutes more to dry a full load, but they’re better than nothing. We also provided hot plates for residents in lieu of stoves.
Doing It Right
The lessons? When you’re upgrading or doing a capital project, try to think ahead. Flexibility is the key. If you’re considering a boiler project, consider dual fuel. If you’re considering upgrading your laundry room, put in 220 lines, so if you have to plug in electric machines, you don’t need to rewire the entire space. Think about emergencies. It’s always good to prepare.