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Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

BRICKS & BUCKS

BUILDING PROJECTS IN NYC CO-OPS/CONDOS

COVID-19 Can’t Derail This Co-op’s Massive Window Job

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on July 1, 2020

Gramercy Park, Manhattan

Window replacement, co-op board, coronavirus pandemic, mortgage refinance.

More than 1,600 windows are being replaced at 301 E. 22 St.

July 1, 2020

If you’re looking for a co-op board president who is part pit bull, you couldn’t do better than Jon Prial, a retired IBM executive who is now doggedly leading his 262-unit Manhattan co-op through a massive window-replacement job – undeterred by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This project was years in coming,” says Prial, who has been deeply involved in major capital projects at the co-op, including a boiler installation and elevator replacements, since joining the board in 2013. The aged double-hung windows were leaking air, which contributed to noise and uneven heat in the building. “We learned a lot about windows over the years, and finally last year we decided this is it, we’re going to refinance our mortgage and set money aside for the windows so we don’t have to raise maintenance or do an assessment.”

The new interest-only mortgage had more than enough surplus to pay for the $2 million window job, which entails replacing more than 1,600 windows and terrace doors in the 16-story post-war building. With the money secured, Prial’s next step was to get shareholder input without letting the project turn into a squabble over details. To this end, the board set up an email address where shareholders could write in questions and concerns, and the board then formed a five-member windows committee, which interviewed three architectural firms.

“We decided to go with Bertolini Architectural Works because Oswald Bertolini is such a straight shooter,” Prial says. “He told us the biggest issue was going to be the quality of the crews doing the removal and installation.”

Bertolini says, “We wanted the board to understand what they were buying.” So the firm arranged for board and committee members to visit showrooms, and it set up visits to the co-op by window manufacturers and installers. “We learned a ton about how windows are made,” Prial says. The board decided to go with double-pane casement windows with argon gas between the panes, which increases thermal efficiency. Ecker Window Corp. was hired to do the removal and installation. “Howard Ecker instilled a lot of confidence,” Prial says. “They’ve been around a long time, and they were on the lower end of pricing. In the end, you want a company with a long track record.”

While Ecker’s crews were measuring window openings – every window must be custom-made – the coronavirus pandemic hit, shutting the job down. Now that nonessential projects have been allowed to resume, the work has begun again – with some modifications.

“We’re going to slow the process down,” Prial says. “Fewer workers will be in the building at a time, and they’ll all be wearing protective equipment. Every drop cloth will get thrown out after we finish each apartment. Crews will wipe down everything they touch.” But, he adds, abandoning the project because of the pandemic was never an option. That’s not how pit bulls operate. “We were not going to stop,” Prial says. “We know some people are going to be nervous about having workers in their apartments, so we’re going to be flexible and careful. But we’re determined to get this done. It’s not an option for shareholders to put this off indefinitely.”

Such words come as no surprise to the co-op’s property manager. “This board doesn’t start something and let it linger,” says Susan Trauner of Tudor Realty Services. “When they make up their minds to do something, they follow through. And they’re very determined to move forward on this one.”

“We’re excited about the value we’re going to add to the apartments – and the savings we’re going to see,” Prial says. “And we did it without an assessment.”

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – ARCHITECT: Bertolini Architectural Works. PROPERTY MANAGER: Tudor Realty Services. MANUFACTURER: Northern Architectural Systems. INSTALLER: Ecker Window Corp.

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