Tom Soter in Bricks & Bucks
What do you do when you’ve got a dangerous façade that threatens the lives of schoolchildren, among others – and you’ve got no money to pay for repairs?
That was the deadly dilemma facing the three-member board at 490 East 181st Street, in the Bathgate section of the Bronx. The 24-unit building, a low-income HDFC co-op, is about 80 years old and has been in disrepair for years.
“There are lots of issues,” reports the building’s manager, Josh Koppel, president of HSC Management. “We’re experiencing a tremendous [amount] of arrears, and we owe on water bills and property taxes, and have deferred on capital work. There's just never enough money to take care of the façade. You've got to take care of the boiler and everything else first. So the façade hasn't been touched in quite some time, and in one of the corners, the front façade is pulling away.”
Because of that, the co-op got a violation for a “dangerous” condition on the corner of the building. Since it was directly over a neighboring nursery school, a sidewalk bridge had to go up immediately. The co-op hired an engineer, filed plans, obtained permits, and was ready to make the repairs.
Now came the hardest part: finding the money to pay for the job. Trading on a long-standing relationship with Koenigsberg Engineering and the contractor Teamwork Restoration, Koppel asked them to defer payment. “I said, ‘Hey, I'm going to need to pay you off, and I can't tell you when, but we've got to get this job done to cure a dangerous condition.’ So they both agreed.” The work began in July, and Koppel says the final cost is yet to be determined.
The ultimate solution will be to take out a loan to cover the property taxes, the water and the sewer bills, and pay everything else off. But Koppel found it difficult to find a loan at a “fair rate” – until recently, when he began negotiating with a new lender. “With their help, we should be able to turn everything around and then be able to sell some apartments and get some income into the building,” he says. “Because the Bronx is changing – everyone wants to buy in the Bronx now – there's much more value than they used to be. By cleaning up the financials and cleaning up the building, we’ll attract more people to come and live here.”
Koppel adds that the major problem in a co-op like this is “not having money and getting hit with a violation for dangerous condition, having no choice but to fix it with no help from anybody in the world except for me, the property manager, who's got to do a dance with everybody to make it happen.”
He adds, “That's one of the benefits of using a big management company where you give vendors lots of work and have good relationships with them. They come back and help you with situations like this. Because if the engineer had refused to help me, I would never have been able to afford to get the plans filed, and get the job designed. We wouldn't have gotten to the point where the contractor says to me, ‘Yeah, Josh, I'll do whatever you need.’”
PROJECT PLAYERS – Property Manager: Josh Koppel at HSC Management. Contractor: Teamwork Restoration. Engineer: Koenigsberg Engineering
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