Bendix Anderson in Bricks & Bucks on May 29, 2019
The co-op board at Flower View Gardens in Floral Park, Long Island, had done everything right. In 2013, the board refinanced the underlying mortgage, setting aside $2 million to pay for an ambitious wish list of capital improvements. The board planned to put new roofs on the 12 low-rise brick buildings, upgrade energy systems, fix a basement sewer backup, and tackle rainwater that sometimes flooded one of the building entrances. But first the board decided to pluck the low-hanging fruit by replacing compact fluorescent light fixtures with energy-efficient LEDs. Easier said than done.
“We were not getting bids on time, and we were not getting enough information,” says James LaManna, president of the co-op board. “When the manager presents you with three bids, with different light fixture counts and different fixtures, you can’t make a comparison. We weren’t getting enough support to help us make informed decisions.”
Clearly, something had to give. The board fired its property manager and brought in Alexander Wolf & Company – and immediately began to make progress on its list of capital improvements. The key was education.
“For each project, we had the engineers we intended to hire come to a co-op board meeting,” says Charles Incandela, vice president and director of management for Alexander Wolf. The engineers would explain the challenges of each project and the scope of work needed to finish the job. “It was an educational process for the board. It made them much more comfortable with the decisions.”
The flooding was one of the first problems the co-op board successfully addressed, at a cost of $135,000. Workers dug dry wells and catch basins to absorb rainwater that routinely covered sidewalks at two of the co-op’s three addresses and penetrated one lobby.
Then the board spent $80,000 to dig out and replace a sewer line that ran under a parking lot. The damaged sewer would regularly back up into the basement of one of the buildings, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. After the line was replaced, the board repaved the parking lot.
More jobs followed, including the $120,000 replacement of light fixtures at the buildings. This time, the co-op board specified particular fixtures, most of which included a motion detector, which dims common-area lights when no one is present, saving energy and money. LaManna was familiar with the technology from his career in hotel management. “I knew about these fixtures,” he says, “and they worked great.”
The co-op board also continues to replace boilers as they age and update cosmetic features, including doorways, signage, and carpeting. After all these projects, the board has spent roughly half of the $2 million it had set aside for capital improvements. With the experience it has gained and the strong relationship it has built with its manager, the board is finally ready to tackle the biggest job in its capital plan: replacing the roofs on the 12 1950s-vintage buildings. The roofs were last replaced in the 1980s. “It’s been on some people’s minds since 2010,” says LaManna. The board is getting ready to solicit bids.
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