Paula Chin in Bricks & Bucks on May 20, 2020
When the executive order to halt all nonessential construction in New York State came down in March, the co-op board at 811 Cortelyou Rd. in Brooklyn had a big problem on its hands. The six-story, 84-unit brick building was in the middle of an extensive facade restoration, and shutting down the project was anything but simple.
“The Department of Buildings (DOB) has strict safety requirements about removing scaffolding, materials and garbage,” says Andras Joo, “and everyone involved, including the residents, had a different interpretation of what had to be done and how quickly. We had to get everyone on the same page.”
And that’s exactly what he did. As a senior owner’s representative at New Bedford Management, which manages the co-op, it’s Joo’s job to guide boards that are undertaking capital projects through every step of the process, including the challenges and setbacks that are bound to crop up. He also acts as their eyes and ears on the job: making sure the work is on schedule, that it’s being done safely, and that the contract is being adhered to. “It’s different from a project manager, who works for the architect or contractor and prioritizes their own company’s interest,” Joo explains. “We report only to the board, and we put its interests first.”
Joo says a big project like facade repairs at a property with 100 units or more typically requires him to put in about five hours a week. Buildings willing to pay New Bedford’s hourly fee for an owner’s rep will get a full menu of services. The rep helps boards figure out financing, sets up reserve accounts, oversees the bidding process, runs insurance background checks and vets vendors. Once work begins, the rep visits the construction site weekly and is in constant contact with property managers, supers and other building staff to make sure everything is running smoothly.
“He’s the liaison between us and the owner,” says Taki Yokovon, vice president at Proto Restoration Construction, which handled the facade repairs at 811 Cortelyou Rd. “When there’s one person being the voice of the board, then the contractor, engineer and architect can get the answers they need and decisions get made. The whole job goes much quicker.”
“Think of us as the communication hub,” adds Joo, a veteran project manager who has worked for Ford Motor Co. and the theatre lighting industry on Broadway. “Everything comes through us, everything is documented, and we deliver structured reports to the board on the job’s progress. And we post status updates in the building to keep residents informed.”
Conflict resolution is also part of an owner’s rep’s job description. At 811 Cortelyou Rd., when news of the coronavirus threat first emerged, residents started panicking about workers entering the building. To allay those anxieties, Joo persuaded vendors to take extra safety measures; they suggested installing portable toilets and climbing fire escapes instead of using the stairs or service elevators. “In the end, they understood the importance of going the extra mile and providing more safety than the minimum requirements,” he says. “That allowed them to keep working until the pause order was issued – and it will give us a smoother return once the restrictions are lifted.”
In the interim, Joo and his team are helping boards navigate the shutdown. “We have 50 projects that we still have to manage because the DOB is making weekly inspections, and buildings that don’t comply can be fined $10,000,” he explains. “Now we’re focusing on how to proceed so that everyone is comfortable with the DOB and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations when construction starts up again. When we get the green light, people are going to need us even more.”
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – PROPERTY MANAGER: New Bedford Management. CONTRACTOR: Proto Restoration Construction.
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