Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks on June 21, 2017
Crystal Towers, a 90-unit co-op in White Plains, was facing yet another roof repair job. The roof dated from the mid-1970s and was put on by the sponsor when the building was converted to co-ops. “We had some small roof leaks over the years and all we did was patching,” says the board’s vice president, Ron Brien. “When you do small patches of three to six square feet, it can get very expensive. Instead of continuing to patch, we decided to replace the roof.”
The board’s first step was to hire Dynami Architecture. With a crew of engineers, Dynami inspected the roof and sent a 20-page report to the board. Dynami recommended roofing contractors they had worked with before, and the board also contacted roofing contractors they had used in the past. When the bids came in, the board interviewed every roofing company.
“It turned out that not only did the prices vary, but so did the types of roofs they recommended,” says Brien. “We did not just ask them about their roofing experience, but we also focused on why they recommended a particular roof material and roof design.” The board decided on a roofing material called FiberTite.
“They did an immense amount of research to find the right roofing contractor,” says property manager Robert Lindenbaum of Prime Locations. “They went even so far as to check the credit ratings and the financial health of the companies.”
The board got lucky when the work began in May. The existing roof contained no asbestos, and the architect determined that it wasn’t necessary to remove the existing roof. “If we would’ve had to remove asbestos and the existing roof, the job would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars more expensive,” says Brien. The roof wound up costing $425,000, but the job didn’t end there.
The three cooling towers on the roof, part of the central air conditioning system, were not working at peak level. “Repairing the water towers would’ve been a waste of money,” says Lindenbaum. Repairing them and postponing the purchase of new water towers could also lead to warranty problems with roofing contractors and the manufacturers. The cooling towers sit on steel pedestals that need to be secured, which requires making holes in the roof. Better to replace the cooling towers before doing the roof, the architect advised. Otherwise, says Brien, “They would’ve been able to say we breached the warranty because we punched holes in the new roof.”
The rules governing the maintenance and inspection of water cooling towers were tightened after a lethal outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in the Bronx in 2015 due to contaminated water in rooftop cooling towers. When the city of White Plains inspected Crystal Towers’ cooling towers, they ordered that some additional work be done. “The requirements for water towers are now much stricter and we had to comply with some additional requirements,” says Lindenbaum. “We added more drainage with additional pipes. Our water towers are now fully automated.”
The new water towers cost the building another $250,000. These capital projects came along just when the co-op was changing from oil to gas – yet another $100,000 expense. “We are now about 90 percent done,” says Lindenbaum. “The water towers are operational and the roof will be done in July. It went surprisingly well.”
All the projects were paid for with money from the reserve fund. To replenish it, the board levied an assessment for four years based on the number of shares. It averages about $75 per apartment per month.
Neither Lindenbaum nor Brien has heard any complaints about the assessment. “By the end of the summer we’re going to have a building that runs on gas, a new roof, and new cooling towers,” Brien says. “And it’s all paid for.”
Best of all, thanks to the board’s foresight, the days of patching and re-patching the roof are in the past.
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – MANAGEMENT: Prime Locations. ARCHITECT: Dyami Architecture. ROOFING CONTRACTOR: Hayden Building Maintenance. COOLING TOWER: Scully Construction. GAS CONVERSION: Excel Heating Services.
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