Tom Soter in Board Operations on June 28, 2019
Peter Pisapia likes to be on top of the situation. Ten years ago, when he moved into One Hunters Point, a 132-unit condominium building in Long Island City, Queens, the developer still controlled the board. “I read the bylaws and said, ‘Hey, we need to ask questions here,’” says Pisapia, a lawyer who works in the financial services industry. So he met with fellow unit-owners, who urged him to run for the board. He did so and is currently the treasurer. “I was happy to at least be involved in a way and to have a say in how the building is run,” observes the Queens-born Pisapia, 46, whose wife is expecting their first child.
Habitat: What steps should a board take concerning construction defects in a property like yours?
Pisapia: You have to identify the scope of the problems. Probably the most thorough but expensive way to do that is to hire a top-notch engineering firm and have them develop a plan. When we took over control of the board about nine years ago, we had an engineering firm come in and do a top-to-bottom review of the building. We said we want to know if there’s anything that is seriously an issue that we need to know about.
You should always try to think one or two steps ahead. We had to inspect all the exterior balconies, and a large number of them had to be fixed. It was a hodgepodge of different things on the exterior of the building. We had rigging up on the roof and scaffolding on the sidewalk. But we had a very successful project. It ran a little longer than expected, but we came in $100,000 under our original estimate.
Habitat: How did that happen?
Pisapia: Our manager, our engineer, our super, and the board kept a careful eye on the work from the start. By doing that, we were able to manage it efficiently and keep capital costs down. You also have to think about the owners. When I think “construction,” what you’re actually talking about is destruction and an intrusion in the building. So one of the things we made sure we did during our whole project was to have communications go out from management every two weeks saying, “Here’s the status of the project. Here’s what was done in the last two weeks and what’s planned for the next weeks.” Some people were more affected than others. For certain parts of the job, the scaffolding had to be rigged off [a unit-owner’s] terrace, so you want to get as much advance communication to them as possible. Even if nothing’s happening, communication is very important.
Habitat: How are your building’s finances?
Pisapia: We have some of the lowest common charges in the area and some of the highest reserves. We’re a very well-run building, from a service standpoint and an efficiency standpoint – that’s what I focus on. I always ask, “Can we do it another way?”
Habitat: The neighborhood has changed a lot. Are you comfortable with that?
Pisapia: It’s funny. I moved into the neighborhood 10 years ago – I rented before I moved into my condo – and when I first got here, there was a lot of uproar at the community board meetings about new restaurants opening and how late they would stay open and if they would have outdoor gardens. People who had lived in the neighborhood for a long time remembered when it was much quieter than it is now. A lot of people don’t like change.
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