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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Reach Out to Your Elected Officials

Jay Silverberg
Principal, Zenith Properties

Reach Out to Your Elected Officials

Setting the Scene

About two years ago, a property we manage called Lindsay Park desperately needed new windows. Built in the 1960s, the seven-building, 2,702-unit complex in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, still had the originals – and they were in bad shape. As a Mitchell-Lama, the challenge had always been obtaining the several million dollars’ worth of funding necessary to do the replacement.

Following the Action

The board applied for and received a $12.9 million Federal Weatherization Assistance Program grant, the largest in New York State at the time. But the grant required the co-op to contribute 25 percent of the total cost, roughly $4 million. The residents didn’t have the money. The board tried to come up with some creative options to make this work. We discussed several different possibilities, and the board went to elected officials. Assemblyman Vito Lopez, an influential figure in Brooklyn, actually negotiated with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. We wound up reducing the owners’ equity component down to half a million dollars, which the building was able to afford, and the grant was allocated to us. The windows were done, as well as a lot of other nice improvements, all for half a million dollars. Almost free!

Doing It Right

Elected officials need votes when they run. If you’re in a building – particularly a larger building – you house a lot of their constituents: a captive audience. Boards need to rally that support and develop a rapport with elected officials. It’s a two-way street. They need votes, and oftentimes boards need help. The bigger moral is: don’t give up. Persevere. Try to come up with creative solutions. Think outside the box. There’s usually a way to make things happen. I think that is the happy ending to our story.

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