New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




The Princely Payoff of Preventive Maintenance

Matthew Hall in Bricks & Bucks

Forest Hills

Chatwick Gardens

The restored facade at Chatwick Gardens in Forest Hills, Queens (picture courtesy of Midtown Preservation)

Chatwick Gardens, built in 1929, is a collection of 14 buildings in Forest Hills, Queens, that blend Elizabethan and Tudor styles. The original marketing pitch for the development trumpeted the views of Forest Hills Stadium and proximity to the Long Island Railroad, which could whisk residents to Manhattan in 15 minutes.

The buildings were unique for being a high-density rental community in what was then considered the suburbs. In the 1980s, five of the six-story buildings converted to a single 120-unit cooperative; the other nine buildings, with two different owners, remain rentals.

Today, a proactive co-op board, keen to keep on top of repairs and upkeep, has charged president Matthew Ferraro with investigating the buildings’ physical condition, to see if he could anticipate the need for future work. Ferraro’s added value? He’s an architect by day.

“Is this the right scope of work and should we bundle things we know we have to do in the future to make a project more cost-efficient?” Ferraro says of common questions the board asks.

Those concerns came into play when five-inch chunks of stucco dangerously peeled off the facade and fell to the ground – the result of a freeze-thaw cycle where water seeped into cracks and pushed stucco off bricks. Immediate action was required. The board decided to combine a planned Local Law 11 project with repairs to all stucco and lintels.

Midtown Preservation, a Long Island architecture and engineering company, was hired to manage the project – envisaged to take six months. Xinos Construction was contracted, not only because its bid was lowest but also because of its previous experience working on the buildings. “Sometimes,” says Ferraro, “the lowest bid doesn’t always mean the best.”

Then things got interesting. Ferraro’s architectural background inspired him to play part-time detective. The question: what did the original facades look like?

“We had color testing [on the stucco] to bring back the original colors,” explains Riz Lekperic of Midtown Preservation. “It’s very difficult to do, so we hired Jablonski Building Conservation, a specialist company, to specifically do that.”

Adds Ferraro: “They did a color mock-up for the facade because even though we found out what the analysis said, we wanted to be sure the color was not too jarring. We had 15 different colors to compare. They took time and care.”

An off-white stucco and red-brick blend was replaced with an original butter-yellow and deep-brown color combination. “They let me do what I wanted and never complained,” jokes Ferraro. “Everyone involved did a really good job. Restoring it has really transformed the front facade and brought it back to life.”

The original bid to complete they work came in at $340,000. Extra scope – an unstable parapet and rusted lintels were discovered during the restoration – added extra time to the project and an approximate $25,000 to a bill that will still come in under $400,000.

“We won’t require an assessment to pay for it,” says Ferraro, who adds that the co-op’s policy of having a reserve fund equal to three times the monthly maintenance has paid off in every way. “I understand people want to be conservative with finances, but sometimes it’s much easier to be proactive than reactive. Sometimes, being smart and looking for things – speaking to your building’s management and not just doing the bare necessity – is the best way to prevent something in the future.”

PROJECT PLAYERS – MANAGEMENT: EBMG. ENGINEER: Midtown Preservation Architecture & Engineering. CONTRACTOR: Xinos Construction. SUB-CONTRACTOR: Jablonski Building Conservation.

Ask the Experts

learn more

Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?