Muscling in. It’s not often that a co-op or condo gets so bogged down with city violations that the solution is taken out of the board’s hands, but it can happen. That’s when the Emergency Repair Program (ERP) from the Office of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) gets involved – whether you want them to or not. Stefany Durland, a property manager with MD Squared Property Group, manages a Manhattan building that was dealing with several Department of Buildings (DOB) issues at once, including a long-standing utility configuration in the basement boiler room that resulted not only in a gas shutdown, but the loss of heat and hot water. Residents complained to the city, which, in turn, sent an HPD inspector to see what was going on.
Help on the way. With an elusive fix and building repairs at a standstill, the inspector offered to bring in the ERP. “What [HPD does] is put the job out for bid, and vendors apply to the city for that bid, and then the city will award someone the job,” Durland says. At the Manhattan building, a plumber was hired and is now working with the building’s attorney to fight its many outstanding violations and get the gas turned back on.
Mixed blessing. There may not be a happy ending, however. “This is not a voluntary program,” says Oscar McDonald, the director of the cooperative preservation department at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. “ERP is a program that buildings are forcibly put into when they have an excessive amount of violations. The fees are excessive. And then they charge the building for the repairs, and those repair costs go right onto the building’s Department of Finance charges, alongside their property taxes.”
Simple solutions. The best way to avoid the Emergency Repair Program is to correct small complaints before they become big ones, according to Jeff Cohn, the director of energy programs at Approved Energy, an energy service company. “If a problem keeps repeating itself and HPD has to go out on a second and third visit, the building goes into a bin for emergency services,” he says. “That’s when the ERP is called in.”