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Learning to Deal with Gas Pains

Ed RErisi, Board President
17 West 67th Street
Resident since: 2003
Board President:4 years
Hometown: Bayville, Long Island

Ed Rerisi believes in professionalism. He has lived in the elegant 80-year-old building at 17 West 67th Street, between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, for about 15 years, and he began serving on the seven-member co-op board a decade ago. He became president in 2014, with the goal of trying to run the building “not like a mom‑and‑pop shop, but more as a professional corporation.”

Rerisi, 44, grew up in the Long Island community of Bayville. After graduating from college, he worked for three years as a naval architect before returning to graduate school for an MBA – because, as he notes,“naval architecture is not a rapidly growing profession.” He eventually became the chief operating officer of a technology market research firm on Long Island, where he works today.

Habitat: In the past few years, your building has had two major gas shutdowns. What happened and what did you learn from the experience?

Rerisi: The first leak happened in 2010 and was a major pain in the neck. Con Ed shut the gas off to the entire building, which wasn’t necessary because there was only a leak in one of the six risers. So that was more of a nightmare than it needed to be. It was a six- to seven-month effort to get everything back up and running – a great disruption. Con Ed wouldn’t allow us to turn on the risers until everything was tested. Tearing apart insides of apartments, trying to identify leaks – the leaks being patched, only to resurface again – that was a real fun process.

Then, about three years ago, there was a renovation that exposed some damaged pipe, and we shut that riser down in a preemptive effort to fix the pipe. This time, we were smart enough to isolate one riser line, which was shut down. That way, five out of six risers – and therefore, five of six apartment lines – were fine.

Habitat: What was the procedure you followed?

Rerisi: We would basically open up the riser stack halfway and then test the piping going down and test the piping going up. That was a forensic process – but it was really like “whack-a-mole,” where you would fix the leak, and everything would test fine, then Con Ed would come, and it wasn’t fine. You’d have to either patch it again or find out where the new leak was coming from. Every time we disturbed the pipe, it had the potential for disrupting either an existing leak or maybe one that we had repaired that didn’t hold all the way.

Habitat: Con Ed was eventually called in on the second gas leak?

Rerisi: Con Ed was definitely involved, because we had to go through the testing process again. I believe the rule is you can turn off the riser whenever you want, but Con Ed needs to turn it back on.

Habitat: What was happening with the residents? Did anyone have to move out?

Rerisi: No. I bought an induction cooktop and a toaster oven, which is what a lot of people did, but we were also worried. Those old cooktops can be really dangerous if left unattended. They can overheat and start a fire. So we sent out notices to make sure all residents were operating them safely. We also have a laundry room in the basement, and we negotiated a deal with a local laundromat and dry cleaner to get discounts on all of the building’s laundry.

After the first leak, we levied an assessment on the shareholders. We had Local Law 11 work going on, and that was an expense that we had planned and budgeted for, but when coupled with the gas project – which I think was $150,000, somewhere in that ballpark – we needed the extra money. We gave people two options: either pay in full, or pay over a year and a half.

Habitat: What did you learn from these experiences?

Rerisi: The first time we kind of shut things off in a hurry. We didn’t really know better. The second time, we knew exactly where the leak was and were able to limit the shutdown. You also have to be as clear and transparent with the shareholders as possible. Things happen – and it’s the job of the board to be as clear and professional as possible.

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