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Operation Elevator: A Co-op Board Prepares for Battle

Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Operation Elevator

When the 171-unit co-op at 333 East 66th Street had to modernize both passenger elevators, the board decided to put together a battle plan. “We really went at this like it’s a precision military operation,” says board vice president Ellyn Berk

As in every other elevator building in New York City, the co-op board had to comply with new regulations that require installation of door-lock monitors by January 1. 2020. (The regulations will also require new emergency brakes by January 1, 2027.) But the overhaul of the co-op’s two 60-year old elevators was due, even without the new law. “We wanted to do it well before the legal deadline,” Berk says. “If we’d done it later, it would’ve been more expensive. Last minute is always more expensive.” 

The board and its management company, Rudd Realty Management, agreed they would save money in the long run by spending more upfront. So in December of 2017, the board hired its general – Sierra Consulting Group – and the team spent three months working out a battle plan. First priority: pick your battles. 

“Ultimately we saved $30,000 to $40,000 by not completely renovating the cabs,” says Fred Rudd, president of Rudd Realty. “We got a new machine and a new controller, but the cabs were modernized with new panels and new push buttons.”  

Before the actual work on Operation Elevator began, all possible problems, conflicts, and tasks were identified. The board members also talked to other battle-hardened co-op boards that had done elevator upgrades, in order to learn from their experiences. Board, management and the consulting company developed strategies and scenarios on how to get everything done as quickly as possible, within budget, and with the least inconvenience to shareholders. 

Since the building does not have a service elevator, the board had to figure out how to deal with recyclables, which are collected on every floor. This involved motivating and educating the troops. “It was very important to have a staff willing to cooperate,” says Berk. “They had to carry heavy garbage down the stairs that would normally go in the elevator. The staff was cooperative and really amazing.” 

The board also reinforced its foot soldiers. “I convinced the building to spend an extra $20,000 for an expedited schedule,” says Rudd. “This means they worked in two shifts, 12 hours a day, six days a week. A regular schedule for an elevator is usually 10 to 12 weeks. We got those elevators done in six and a half weeks each, which included the sign-off from the Department of Buildings’ elevator division.”  

The shareholders, a potential enemy, became an ally. “We kept the shareholders informed all through the process,” says Berk. “I was surprised, almost shocked. Everybody became a stakeholder in this. They knew it was not going to take six months, it was only for a short period of time. We helped them to plan their lives around it.” 

All apartment renovations had be put on hold during the elevator upgrades, and move-ins, move-outs, and deliveries were strictly scheduled. “Anybody who wanted to do anything had to first contact our office for scheduling,” says Rudd. “But nobody complained.” 

Even the most meticulous battle plan needs a bit of luck to succeed. “People make mistakes that cannot be anticipated,” says Rudd. “Sometimes the supplier is at fault, or workers get sick and diminish the workforce, a lot of things can happen. But I have to tell you, I’ve been in this business for over 40 years, and this job went flawlessly.” 

Thanks to lockstep planning, the board saved about $100,000 and completed the job, on time and under budget, for $420,000. The money came out of the reserve fund. Mission accomplished.

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – ELEVATOR CONSULTANT: Sierra Consulting Group. CONTRACTOR: BP Elevator Co. PROPERTY MANAGER: Rudd Realty Management.

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