New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




The Facade That Could Have Come Tumbling Down

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks

Hamilton Heights

Falling Facade

The Hamilton Heights co-op's facade, secured with cables and safety netting. (image courtesy of Koenigsberg Engineering)

The sky wasn’t falling – yet. Last summer, a resident at a 54-unit co-op in Hamilton Heights stuck his head out the window and noticed an alarming gap between the century-old building’s structural wall and its brick facade. Alerted to the problem, the co-op board’s president, Vincent Joseph, sent the super to take pictures. Then Joseph, property manager Frank Negron and a contractor went to investigate in person.

“When I first saw the gap I thought it looked scary,” Joseph recalls. “What if this thing falls?”

To avert such a calamity, the players swung into action. The manager called his boss, Josh Koppel, president of HSC Management, and the building’s engineer. When Richard Koenigsberg, president of Koenigsberg Engineering, arrived on the scene, he notified the Department of Buildings (DOB), whose engineers ordered that the building had to be stabilized immediately.

The management company brought in IGH Restoration of White Plains. After police blocked off the street to traffic, the contractor’s 10-man team worked all night and into the next evening, following Koenigsberg’s instructions. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Koppel. “They took a steel wire and wrapped it around the outside of the building, through the windows, cutting through people’s floors and walls and around columns and securing the façade so that it wouldn’t fall and kill somebody.”

No one was evacuated. No one was injured. Disaster was averted – and the job of assessing the extent of the damage could begin. This required 10 probes of the facade, which revealed extensive separation – none of which was present when mandated Local Law 11 repairs were made in 2013.

Now the assessment is done, the compromised sections are secured by wire cables and safety netting, and the board is gearing up for a major repair job.

“We’re going to refinance our mortgage,” says Joseph, adding that three mortgage brokers are currently shopping with lenders. “We’ll get enough to pay off the current mortgage and finance this job.”

How much this job will cost is still in question. Koenisgberg estimates the repair will cost anywhere from $560,000 to over $900,000 – depending on whether the board decides to economize or restore the pricey decorative masonry to its original splendor. That decision will be put to a shareholder vote, Joseph says. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the first and most urgent phase will be to remove the cables and netting and the compromised bricks.

“As long as the cables are up, the windows can’t be closed – and the winter is coming,” says Joseph. “We hope to remove the loose bricks in October. Then we’ll rebuild the facade, which we expect to do when the weather gets warm.”

Once the compromised bricks are removed, the exposed load-bearing wall will be coated with a waterproof membrane called bituthene to prevent further damage during the winter months. “This is an extremely unusual job,” Koenigsberg says, “and the DOB is very interested in it.”

PROJECT PLAYERS – Property Manager: HSC Management. Engineer: Koenigsberg Engineering. Contractor: IGH Restoration.

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