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Keeping an Elevator Job on the Up and Up

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks


Elevator Job

Parkway Towers in Yonkers has the aura of a fortress (image via Google Maps)

Parkway Towers, with its crenellated turrets and thick brick walls, has the aura of a fortress. Built in Yonkers in 1938, this 80-unit co-op has two workhorse elevators that had been refurbished in 1984 but were getting a bit long in the tooth.

“I’ve been managing the building for over 20 years,” says Bram Fierstein, president of Gramatan Management. “In that time, nothing had been done to the elevators’ mechanicals beyond what was needed to keep them running. We stripped the paint and installed paneling in the cabs, trying to make them period pieces. But they were getting rickety.”

The co-op board decided to do the job right. First, it needed the money. Some boards assess residents and give them options on how to pay off the assessment. The Parkways Towers board decided instead to refinance the underlying mortgage to raise money for the project – though Fierstein doesn’t specify how much – and, perhaps just as importantly, they listened to their manager and agreed to bring in an elevator consultant to oversee the job from start to finish.

“No matter how knowledgeable a managing agent is,” Fierstein says, “we don’t know enough to write specifications, get the best price, and get the system that was promised to us. You need an expert to do that.”

Dan Hrivnak’s grandfather and father worked on elevators, and he followed the family tradition. Now vice president of Rockland County-based Omega Industries, an elevator consulting firm, Hrivnak was brought in by the Parkway Towers board at the very beginning of the project. “We went in and evaluated the building,” Hrivnak says, “and we determined that the elevators were worn beyond repair. The board gave me the green light to draw up specs, and I sent out for bids from eight contractors I knew would do the best job.”

The board settled on D&D Elevator of Elmsford, New York.

“Then I put on my project manager’s hat,” Hrivnak says. “I have to oversee the engineering drawings, permitting, and the materials, and we watch the crew, making sure the work is done correctly.”

A common mistake boards make, according to Hrivnak, is to get locked into a service contract with the company that installs the new elevators. “The benefit of having a consultant is not only that you’re sure the work is up to code and that the materials are what you paid for – but you make sure the new equipment is serviceable by any elevator company in the future. If you’re stuck with one contractor and they have you over a barrel, you may not get the best service.”

Without specifying Omega’s fee structure, Hrivnak says it varies with the scale and complexity of each job. Another thing that varies is the working relationship with boards.

“Dealing with the Parkway Towers board was very smooth,” he says. “They knew what they wanted to do, and they made the money available. They were ready to let me run the show.”

One elevator is up and running, the other will be ready for testing in mid-January. Freedom to run the show carries responsibility. “Any mistake is on me,” Hrivnak says, and you get the feeling that this third-generation elevator guy wouldn’t have it any other way.


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