New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Gramercy Co-op Board Saves Big by Using the Super as Project Manager

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on March 22, 2023

Gramercy Park, Manhattan

Capital project, co-op board, resident manager, project manager, underlying mortgage.

Corroded steel pipes and insulation (left) got replaced, along with fan coil units.

March 22, 2023

Every co-op and condo board embarking on a multi-million-dollar capital project looks for ways to cut costs without cutting corners. The co-op board at the Peter James, at 201 E. 25th St. near Gramercy Park, found the perfect solution. His name is Kevin Joyce.

Before he took on the job as resident manager of the 18-story, postwar brick building in 2018, Joyce, 36, had worked in construction and as a super at three buildings. A year after he was hired at the Peter James, the co-op board decided to attack persistent leaks by replacing all of the water risers and hundreds of fan-coil heating and cooling units in the sixth through 18th floors. That was when the board discovered it had a valuable asset in its new resident manager.

“I was new to the building,” Joyce recalls, “but I had overseen big jobs at my previous buildings — roof replacements, elevator jobs, hallway renovations. The bids that came in for the Peter James job were very high, and I reviewed them with the engineer and property manager. I figured we could do the same quality of work cheaper if we were the general contractor and I was the project manager overseeing the subcontractors.”

The engineer on the job was Ray Locicero, head of the plumbing, electrical and mechanical team at RAND Engineering & Architecture. “This was a very large project,” Locicero says, noting that it called for replacing 4,000 feet of black steel piping and about 325 Carrier fan coil units in the 164-unit building. It entailed opening up walls, replacing pipes, insulating them, installing fire-proofing in floors, then reclosing and finishing the walls. The $2.75 million price tag was covered by a refinancing of the co-op’s underlying mortgage back when interest rates were at rock bottom.

“We had to do the work in the spring and fall,” Locicero adds, “what’s known as shoulder seasons, when the heating and cooling system can be shut down. Having Kevin onsite every day and going through every apartment helped the project move swiftly. He wasn’t just providing access, he was also coordinating between the various trades. His hands-on approach paid off for them.”

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This wasn’t the co-op’s first rodeo. Before Joyce was hired, a massive leak in the risers on the second floor led the co-op board to do a similar project on the first through fifth floors. When smaller leaks began sprouting in pipes and joints on the upper floors, the board decided to launch a full-frontal assault and replace the rest of the risers and fan coil units. “There are two schools of thought on jobs like this — proactive and reactive,” Locicero says. “This board was proactive. They’ve increased the life of the building’s entire piping system by 40-plus years.”

There were hiccups, of course. The big one was the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed down the job for several months. But the three-year project came in under budget and on schedule, thanks to the expertise and hands-on supervision of a member of the building’s staff.

“The unique thing was that I took on an unconventional role, a much bigger one than most resident managers, in order to save them some costs,” Joyce says. “And I wound up saving them a good chunk of money. It was a challenge, but I’m very proud.”

Alas, such performance tends to get noticed. Since the job was completed last fall, Joyce has gone to work as director of project management at R.E.M. Residential, a property management company. It’s a twist on the conventional wisdom. In this case, a good deed got rewarded.

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS — ENGINEER: RAND Engineering & Architecture. PROPERTY MANAGER: Douglas Elliman. DEMOLITION AND RESTORATION: Norbert Painting. PLUMBER: Hausman Plumbing. PIPE INSULATION AND FIREPROOFING: Nordic Insulation. FAN COIL INSTALLATION: Lion Air Installations.

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