New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Kensington House, 200 West 20th Street in New York, N.Y. Photo by Nicholas Strini.
Kensington House, 200 West 20th Street in New York, N.Y. Photo by Nicholas Strini.

The board hired Rand Engineering & Architecture to help solve the problem. Initially the thinking was that the leaks were coming from breaches in the façade, says Michael Larkin, the senior structural engineer from Rand who supervised the work. "Then we did a whole series of water tests, and we realized it's not just the outside wall, it's the full parapet wall that is defective. That meant that the whole scope of the job increased."

The parapets were compromised: the brick was worn in places, counterflashing had been improperly installed, and waterproofing was needed in some areas.

The board now debated its next choice: do a full replacement or continue with the patchwork repairs as leaks appeared. Over multiple meetings and long discussions, the board debated the two options, ultimately deciding to go with the full parapet replacement.

No More Stopgap Repairs!

"We were convinced that this would solve all the water penetration problems permanently," recalls Devall. "We didn't want to do a Band-Aid and come back to this three or five years from now and have the same sort of situation. Some of those bricks are still there from 1937. It's high time that they get swapped out, and they made a decision to put no more money into stopgap repairs."

"As president, I helped lead the board over this multi-month period where we needed to decide the type of work we were going to do, and who was going to do the work," recalls Robert Dobruskin. "There are seven members, and each person brings to the group their own experience and perspective, and getting all of those perspectives to align and make a decision is a challenging process. In our building in particular, three of the seven members are sponsor representatives. The sponsor still holds approximately 25 percent of the co-op corporation, and they also own the commercial spaces in the building."

Were there difficulties with the sponsor over the parapet replacement? All Dobruskin will say is: "The sponsor has his own interests."

Another factor in the decision was that, in 2013, the co-op's underlying mortgage had come due; they refinanced for about $2 million — perfectly timed to help them prepare for upcoming Local Law 11 inspections. "The local law cycle is coming up here, and we thought we were going to address this condition during that project," explains Devall, "so the building is now in a much better cash position to undertake this type of work."

Priority: Eliminating Leaks

After the board decided to go ahead — putting off a window replacement job until the leaks were eliminated — it announced the project at its annual meeting. There was hardly a murmur, recalls Devall, with some surprise. "At most buildings that I manage, when someone hears that a whole parapet wall is being replaced, and that we are going to spend an extra $200,000, some people do blink or blush, and they give me a call."

Skyline Restoration is doing the work, which began in mid-November and will be shut down when the cold weather rolls in with winter. Devall is doing most of the liaison work with the contractor and Rand, although board president Dobruskin, a city planner by day, has been involved, especially in the choice of decorative brick, which must match the Art Deco design of the building.

"The majority of the brick work in the building is the original brickwork and it's been quite some time since the building was cleaned," observes Dobruskin. "So you kind of have to just eyeball it and imagine what the brick would look like clean, because, ultimately, you want the new brick to match the clean brick, not the dirty brick."

The project is slated to end next spring. 



John Devall, managing agent, Orsid Realty Corp.

Michael Larkin, senior structural engineer, Rand Engineering & Architecture

Robert Dobruskin, board president

Skyline Restoration, construction company


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Photo by Nicholas Strini. Click to enlarge. 

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