New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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HABITAT

BOARD OPERATIONS

HOW CO-OP/CONDO BOARDS OPERATE

Saving Money by Spending Money: The Building Improvements that Do It

Lawrence Weinstein, President, Silver Towers, Kew Gardens, Queens. One in an occasional series of real-life stories by board members about serving on co-op and condo boards. in Board Operations on March 29, 2012

Silver Towers, Kew Gardens, Queens

Saving Money through Building Improvements
March 29, 2012

I have lived in Silver Towers since 1973, and for the first 10 to 15 years or so kept a low profile. My wife, Pat, had become head of the board's interview committee, a position she has held for over two decades, and also served several terms on the board. Some 10 years ago, the president approached me with a request to become a consultant to the board, because in my day job I review contracts, proposals, and contractor bids. He felt such expertise would be useful.

In early 2010, I was approached by a coalition of concerned shareholders to run for the board. At our annual meeting in June 2011, I was elected and became president. I had already performed a total retrofit of the lighting in all our public hallways, emergency staircases, and laundry rooms, etc., working with Con Edison. We received a sizable rebate check since we were able to substantially decrease our electrical consumption.

Active Vision

We are an activist board. Working with our managing agent, the Goodstein division of Cooper Square Realty, and with a cohesive and involved board of five cooperative and four condominium members, we undertook a number of projects. We began the required Local Law 11 work in late summer 2011, which will finish at the end of January, on time and under budget. We had some problems with our central air conditioning. With a substantial grant from the New York State Energy and Research Development Agency (NYSERDA), we purchased a new cooling unit that is expected to save us $35,000 per year in energy costs with a payback of 30 months. Installation of the chiller is expected to be completed in April.

And the projects keep coming. New York City has mandated the phasing out of No. 6 heating oil. We subsequently found that our two existing boilers were in need of replacement and/or repair. Again, working with sizable grants from NYSERDA and National Grid, we decided to do a natural gas conversion with a potential yearly savings of at least $150,000. One of the boilers will use natural gas, and the other will be retrofitted to accommodate No. 2 heating oil as a backup.

On November 1, to improve our financial base, we closed on a new seven-year mortgage with a five-year option. Our monthly debt service will be roughly $14,000 lower than our previous monthly mortgage payment, thus giving us additional capital and flexibility for financing new projects.

Don't Forget the Aesthetics

On another front, we are chemically cleaning our white brick building, a first for our nearly 60-year-old property. The praise and comments of "it's beautiful" from shareholders have been very satisfying.

The board is planning a number of projects in the future, and among these are: alteration to our residential cooperative front entrance in order to allow for easier handicapped access; a lobby renovation, which will be put out to bid with various architectural firms specializing in this sort of renovation; and installation of a new state-of-the-art intercom system that will assist our doormen as well as enhance and add to our existing building security.

To what do we owe such productivity? The answer: a concerned, responsive managing agent and a board that understands its responsibilities and whose primary concern is always, "Is it good for the building?" With people like that, much can be accomplished.

 

Adapted from Habitat March 2012. For the original article and more, join our Archive >>

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