New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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BOARD OPERATIONS

HOW CO-OP/CONDO BOARDS OPERATE

The Secret to Capital Projects Without Assessments? It's Not So Secret.

Aparna Narayanan in Board Operations on February 13, 2014

Brevoort East, 20 E. 9th Street, Greenwich Village

Managing Capital Projects Without Assessments
Feb. 13, 2014

"It's a birth process," says the 31-year co-op board veteran, describing how ideas come to fruition. "It just takes years to push it back and forth, and then comes an opportunity."

After it becomes operational in the spring, the cogen facility will help the building save more than $100,000 annually in energy costs. But the achievement is merely the latest in a series that includes an oil-to-gas conversion, a lobby renovation and an LED lighting upgrade.

 How Do They Do It?

Not many buildings could pull off simultaneous cogen and Local Law 11 projects as the Brevoort East did, in 2012 and 2013. And the board didn't stop there. When the LL11 inspection of the building façade revealed incidental problems — terraces in disrepair that posed no immediate danger to public safety, for example — it fixed those as well.

At a time when many co-op and condo boards are working hard just to keep on top of problems, this board and its management team are looking ahead, discussing their next project while tending to the current ones.

The co-op, it must be admitted, is blessed with a fairly unusual pair of circumstances that helps it succeed: healthy capital reserves and a prime downtown location attractive to commercial tenants. Yet it would be all too simple to explain away the property's accomplishments as mere luck. The co-op board has managed to accomplish a clutch of big projects — 11 in the last seven years alone — without assessing its 900 residents. So, what's the secret? 

It's putting in hours of research

so that funds are invested wisely,

and selecting projects that offer

annuities and build capital reserves.

It's no secret: As Silverzweig describes it, it's putting in hours of research so that building funds are invested wisely, and carefully selecting those projects that result in annuities and build capital reserves. The co-op does not relent in its focus on, and finessing of, the bottom line. In Silverzweig's words, "What do we have here, how can we do better, which costs can be controlled?"

This forward-thinking attitude is typical for board members. During an oil-to-gas conversion in 2010, they installed a 12-inch line although the job called for merely an 8-inch one. It was no mistake: they were planning for the future. Cogeneration was at the back of their minds, and they had found that such a system would require larger piping. Because of this foresightedness, when the cogen plant was installed in 2013, they were we were not ripping out all the piping.

Giving and Getting Respect

The board's cohesiveness enhances teamwork all around, testifies on-site property manager Elizabeth Baum, of Orsid Realty. "I am working in a group with good back-up," she says. "I don't worry about what's happening, as long as there is no fire, flood, or gas leak."

As the board goes about getting things done, it treats with respect the professional expertise of both its own employees and outside contractors. This manifests in ways big and small. Staff members have, on average, 25 years of service with the building. When the men's locker rooms were redone a few years ago, they got more than the expected new lockers. Air-conditioning and microwave ovens were installed as well. And while it is hardly unusual for buildings to buy uniforms for their staff, the Brevoort East also bought them brand-new shoes so they all look alike. 

This inspires confidence in the cooperative leaders — a sentiment shared by residents, according to the building's superintendent, Robert Miller. "They know that the board does their due diligence" researching projects and getting the best prices for them, he says. "Questions are answered, not put off."

 

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Photograph by Jennifer Wu

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