My most gratifying achievement is keeping Amalgamated affordable and keeping it going, even though that’s becoming more of a struggle because of increased expenses. If you look back at the number of limited-equity co-ops that have reconstituted (become market rate) there was a period where a lot of that was happening, and we never even thought of it.
Our biggest challenge is related to government mandates. Our buildings are around 50 to 90 years old, so maintaining them is a problem. Frankly, for many years, we weren’t great at it. I’d say through the ’70s we were behind the curve on building maintenance. Then we started catching up with our building envelopes, but Local Law 11 kept tightening what it considered acceptable, and we haven’t always had the budget to do a full repair. So we did what was needed and left the rest for later, but later catches up with you. Now we’re trying to do complete repairs, but that gets expensive.
One problem we have is that we cannot raise our maintenance ourselves. We’re supervised by the New York State Homes and the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. Most co-ops can look at their budget in November, decide if maintenance should be increased, and then do so the following year. DHCR approves our budget, and we’re on a two-year cycle. Our last budget was approved through June 2021 says we need more money, and we’re already nine months into a new budget year with no maintenance increase.
If you look at everything we’re learning today, it’s almost stupid to replace gas piping when you read that cooking with gas is bad for your health and for the environment. Yet the cost is a lot less than rewiring a building to put in electric stoves. Our estimate was about $7,000 an apartment to replumb it for gas and $50,000 to $60,000 to rewire at least one 1930 building for enough electricity for today’s standards and for induction stoves. I assume we’ll get penalties if we don’t fix our gas piping, and we don’t have money to do it. We’re due for an inspection this year, and we’ll get shut down. I don’t know, I guess our people will have to do takeout.
My biggest wish is to have the money to invest in the long-term future, because that will bring down future costs. We’re ambitious. We’re trying to do as much as we can. We’re working on an energy purchase agreement to install radiator cozies; a geothermal solution for our towers, which are centrally air-cooled and have a hydraulic system; and a building maintenance system to better manage our new boilers and heating system so that we can maximize our efficiency. We recently met with people who are using wastewater energy transfer for domestic hot water.
We just got the Con Edison Make Ready program to install 10 electric charging stations. I expect at some point to look at solar for a couple of our buildings where possible. Conceptually, we’re very interested in improving our energy efficiency. Some of it takes investment money, and that’s where we’re stymied.
Board treasurer (6 years)
Amalgamated Housing Corp., 98 Van Cortlandt Park S., Bronx
Years of board service: 42 years
(25 years as president)
Type: Limited-equity co-op
Year built: 1927-31 (plus additional buildings)
Operating budget: $22 million
Current assessment: No
Maintenance increase: 12.6% in 2019
Property management: Charles Zsebedics, General Manager
Accountant: Czarnowski & Beer
Attorney: Norris McLaughlin