Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on January 6, 2022
Hurricane Sandy did a number on The Sailmaker condominium on City Island in the Bronx. Wind and the churning waters of the Long Island Sound sent boats from the nearby marina smashing into the property’s retaining wall, punching holes, damaging it beyond repair.
Teresa Tramposch, board treasurer at the 34-unit condominium and owner of an engineering firm, was tapped to head the committee that would oversee the reconstruction of the wall. It was an epic challenge. “We knew we had to rebuild the wall,” she says, “but we couldn’t see how we were going to pay for it. In late 2017 we wrote requests for proposals for an engineer and wound up hiring BlueShore Engineering with a very specific scope of work. Richard Gilbert, the president of the company, understood that we had limited resources and needed to get this done as inexpensively as possible.”
Working with the association’s controller, Tara Riordan of the Ferrara Management Group, the committee devised a two-pronged revenue stream. First, a separate account was opened exclusively for the repair project, and it was fed by savings from strict cost controls. “We kept a very tight budget,” Riordan says, “we made sure there were no cost overruns, and we put other big projects on hold.”
The second revenue stream was an assessment, which stretched over six months and ranged from $4,800 to $10,800, depending on the size of the unit. Together, the two streams generated the $450,000 to pay for the project. The need for the assessment was laid out at a meeting in April 2019, at which Gilbert gave every unit-owner a copy of the engineering drawings and walked them through the intricacies of the project. “I think that helped them buy into the project and engage with what we were trying to accomplish,” Tramposch says. “I think this transparency contributed to the success of the project.”
(Like what you're reading? To get Habitat newsletters sent to your inbox for free, click here.)
Transparency, that overused but vital word, did not stop there. Work was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, which slowed the permitting process to a crawl. “We tried to be as transparent as possible and tell people every number,” Tramposch says. “We sent out a newsletter every month letting them know the status of the project, including the fact that permits were delayed. That way, people weren’t always asking why things were taking so long.”
Though the budget was squeaky tight, the board decided to spend $15,000 to hire BlueShore as its construction manager. “They did weekly site visits,” Tramposch says, “and they were sticklers that things were done according to specifications. That was one of the reasons we were successful. It was worth every penny.”
Gilbert, the engineer, notes that shoreline repairs are always a challenge. “There are no standard details out of a book,” he says. On this job, the bedrock is so close to the surface that driving piles would have been prohibitively expensive. “So we poured a slab on the bedrock with anti-washout, fast-curing concrete,” he says. A 150-foot-long retaining wall of poured concrete was placed on top of the slab. “The concrete is tailored to the ocean environment,” Gilbert says, “and this was the most efficient and least expensive way to do the job. This project went reasonably well.”
While work was underway last summer, the condominium’s pool, shuttered since Sandy, was finally reopened. Now that the retaining wall is complete, Tramposch is able to declare the project a success. The proof is in the sale prices. “Property values had dipped,” she says. “But right now, units are selling at record prices.”
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS — ENGINEER: BlueShore Engineering. PROPERTY MANAGER: Ferrara Management Group. CONTRACTOR: City Island Contracting.
Co-op and condo board business broken down into bite-sized bits - 2 stories each week. Read now on all digital devices.
A free digital resource for co-op/condo board directors. Published twice a month. Read now on all digital devices.