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Time Is Money When Co-op Replaces Its Lone Elevator

Paula Chin in Bricks & Bucks on May 26, 2021

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Elevator replacement, co-op board, door-lock monitors, emergency brakes.

The lone elevator at 166 W. 76th St. is as good as new.

May 26, 2021

When Debra McEneaney became co-op board president at 166 W. 76th St. back in 2012, taking care of her neighbors was a top priority. That was one reason the co-op, a 34-unit, seven-story property with a single elevator, had delayed replacing the aging unit, which dates back to the building’s construction in 1963. “We have a fair number of older residents and families with young kids,” McEneaney says, “and we were concerned about the inconvenience it would cause. So we put it off for as long as possible.”

Replacing the elevator was still off the table in 2019, when the board turned its attention to a looming Department of Buildings (DOB) deadline requiring all buildings with automatic elevators to install an electronic door-lock monitoring system, which prevents an elevator from moving if the doors are not closed properly. But when the board brought in an engineer to do a retrofit, the news wasn’t good.

“We were told (the door-lock monitor) would cost $35,000, but that wouldn’t be enough to meet the next round of codes,” McEneaney says, referring to the DOB requirement that all elevators must have emergency brakes by 2027. “It didn’t make sense to spend all that money and then have to pay more in seven years. So we decided to bite the bullet and go ahead with a replacement.”  

After the co-op’s property manager, Carole Ferrara Associates, bid out the project, the seven-member board went with Bronx-based Eltech Industries. “We liked their presentation, but I had also talked to the building next door, which had recently replaced their elevator,” says McEneaney, a partner at a consulting firm that works with not-for-profits, who makes it a point to be friendly with the neighbors. “It turned out they had used Eltech and were very happy with them, so I had good reviews from people I knew well and trusted.”

The equipment was sitting in the lobby, and the project was ready to start in March 2020 – right when the pandemic hit. “We had to pull the plug, but Eltech agreed to store everything for us,” McEneaney recalls. “Still, it was a very stressful weekend.”

This spring, the co-op was finally able to forge ahead. Mindful as always of shareholders, the board put the project on the fast track by paying 30% extra to have the elevator crew work 12-hour days, enabling them to get the job done in just five weeks instead of 10 – at a total cost of $194,000. “We finished the project in April, right on schedule,” McEneaney says. “And fortunately, there was minimal disruption to residents, since many of them are still living elsewhere due to COVID.”

The co-op was able to pay for the elevator replacement out of its reserve fund, which was in good shape thanks in part to a flip tax that shareholders approved in 2018. “It’s just 1%, but that’s a little something to help replenish the reserves,” McEneaney says. “I had lobbied for a flip tax for years because we’re an old building, and we want to avoid assessments for the next round of capital projects that will come up.”

For now, the only pressing project is fixing the concrete steps that lead from the sidewalk down to the front door, which have already been patched several times. As for the new elevator, McEneaney gets an instant mood lift every time she uses it. “I selected the samples for everyone to look at, and we went with the majority,” she says. “It’s got gorgeous wood panels and the floor has these beautiful little brass-like studs.”

There was one small downer, though. “The workers did break the chandelier in the lobby, which was an antique,” McEneaney says. “But I got a new one in a week.”

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – CONTRACTOR: Eltech Elevator Industries. PROPERTY MANAGER: Carole Ferrara Associates.

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