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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Eyes Wide Open

Ask Linda Putignano why she moved to the Parker Deauville co-op 23 years ago, and she’ll give you a simple answer: location, location, location. In fact, Putignano, who owned a construction company and had decades of experience in building restoration, was so taken by the breezy oceanfront co-op in the Nassau County town of Long Beach that she didn’t think about the extra maintenance the building required to combat the corrosive effects of the salty coastal air.


“It never crossed my mind, partly because the roof, pool deck and pavers had just been replaced,” she says. “Everything seemed to be in great condition.”


Appearances, as it turned out, were deceiving. Over the years, the 247-unit, six-story structure, which was built in 1965, had taken a steady beating from the elements and was falling into disrepair. By the time Putignano joined the board in 2016, leaks were sprouting everywhere, the facade was falling apart, and there were alarming structural problems as well. “I don’t understand why, but there was never an ongoing plan to deal with the damage, and it simply wasn’t addressed,” she says.


But the Parker Deauville has finally taken its head out of the sand. Since Putignano became president three years ago, the co-op has undertaken one major capital project after another, overcoming setbacks – including the coronavirus pandemic – every step of the way. “It has been a very rough road,” she says. “And we still have a long way to go.”


The Troubles Begin

The first wave of trouble hit in 1998, when Putignano spotted cracks in the concrete supporting the balconies. An inspection revealed that the steel support beams inside were so badly corroded that the balconies had to be replaced – a $2.3 million project that the co-op paid for by refinancing its mortgage. For several years, all was calm on the repairs front – until Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, flooding the boilers and the lobby. The clean-up was done quickly, but when the self-managed co-op brought in a management company, Putignano says, facade repairs were put on the back burner.


Putignano watched with alarm as the building continued to deteriorate. She noted that in the underground parking area, the concrete columns were crumbling and the steel structural beams inside them were corroding, just as they had in the balconies. “I told management they needed to address the problems, but nothing happened,” Putignano recalls.


The facade was also deteriorating. But because Nassau County does not have stringent facade-inspection requirements like New York City’s, there was little incentive to keep up with repairs. Cost was another consideration. “The board kept delaying things because they wanted to avoid assessments and maintenance hikes,” says Ellie Frasier, a former board member. “But with buildings on the water, you have to be even more vigilant and proactive.”


Shareholders became so concerned that they urged Putignano to run for the board, hoping she could sway the members with her construction expertise. But it wasn’t until the following year, when she became president, that the board finally decided to act. “It took a while to educate everyone on what was happening,” she says. “And I stressed that we had to move quickly before things got worse.”


No sooner had the bids been received ed and an engineer selected than the building found itself facing a new nightmare. The lamination on the 15-year-old balcony decks was cracking, turning the platforms black with mildew, and moisture was working its way into the underlying concrete. Water was also seeping into the apartments.


“My wife can smell mold a mile away, and she started to notice it,” says Kato Lin, the co-op’s vice president, who joined the board last year. Another new member, Andy Eisner, the board secretary, who was installing new baseboard molding in his living room, discovered a two-foot wide puddle along the south wall. “It turned out there was an issue with the bricks above the windows,” he says. “I asked myself what other problems were lurking where we couldn’t see them.”


The Setbacks Keep Coming

The board decided unanimously to tackle all the needed repairs rather than doing them piecemeal. The most urgent project – reinforcing the steelwork in the garage – was separated from the slate of projects and completed first. Next on the agenda was fixing the ground-floor windows, where the lintels and sills were practically falling off, and doing emergency repairs in three top-floor apartments, where water was leaking in from the lintels.


At that point, the co-op had shelled out nearly $300,000 of its $1.6 million in reserves. When the big-ticket items – restoring the balconies and the rest of the building’s facade – were bid out in late 2019, the cost of the combined projects was $2.6 million. The prospective contractors had been whittled down to two, and when MNR Group of College Point offered $2 million in financing for 30 months at no interest, the board couldn’t refuse. “A second mortgage was prohibitive because of the prepayment penalty, so this was a win-win,” Putignano says. “We knew we would have to impose assessments, but it was the only way to proceed.” The board had also hired a new management company, Charles H. Greenthal, which has had extensive experience overseeing large-scale restorations and dealing with Local 32BJ unionized workers.


Their best-laid plans, however, were undone when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in March and all nonessential construction was shut down. “The world had ground to a halt, and so did our projects,” Putignano says. As they scurried to implement safety measures to protect residents and staff, there was a rising torrent of complaints from shareholders about leaks. Once it was announced that the construction ban would be lifted in June, the board met with MNR, its engineer (Stone Engineering) and its managing agent (Steve Greenbaum) to plan the reboot. “We decided to start small with the worst leaks on the south side,” Putignano says. “Our building has a large footprint, and we didn’t want to put up scaffolding and bridging around the whole thing and then get stuck if COVID-19 came back.” To minimize disruption to shareholders, the co-op brokered a deal with the contractor to erect a bridge over parking spots so residents could still use them while the work was underway.


At the same time, the board set to work calculating the assessments needed to meet the 30-month deadline. “With the usual overruns and extra costs, the project would actually cost $3 million,” says Lin, the board vice president. In order to cover that amount while keeping the reserves at $1.3 million, the board decided to spread the assessments over 40 months. “It’s our responsibility not to increase debt if we can avoid it,” Lin adds. “And keeping the reserves healthy would be good for apartment sales going forward.”


The assessments amount to roughly $25 a share, which translates to $175 monthly for a studio, and $646 for the largest units. Mindful of shareholders out of work, the board talked to its financial and legal advisers and agreed to defer payments a minimum of six months for people who need it. “We’ll also consider expanding (the deferrals) on a case-by-case basis,” Lin says.


No More Kicking the Can

In hindsight, Putignano says, the co-op should have assessed years ago rather than kicking the can down the road. The previous management company advised the board that the reserves were sufficient at $1.6 million – but that didn’t factor in capital projects. “A building of our size really needs to have at least twice that,” she says.


The initial facade repairs finally started in August, with the goal of completing the first section by late fall. “The facade and balcony work will be done simultaneously in sections until we complete the whole building, which will be a two-year project,” Putignano says. In addition to putting the Parker Deauville back together again, the board has also put its house in order. Lin, who develops software systems, applied his skills to update the key fob system and inventory and to organize the overflowing bike storage room.


“This board is conscientious and transparent,” says Greenbaum, the property manager. “At town hall meetings, they go through the budget and explain every penny, and they put out a quarterly newsletter, constant email blasts and memos on everything from alterations guidelines to how to sell or sublet apartments. They’ve injected a new energy and are taking on every single task.”


That takes a village. “There’s been a real learning curve for all of us, but we’re really a team now,” Putignano says. “We want to do the work and do it right.”

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