New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




An Unpleasant Surprise on a Harlem Roof

Tom Soter in Bricks & Bucks


Harlem Roof Redo

The new parapets and roof on the Harlem co-op. (Image courtesy RAND Engineering & Architecture)

After years of renting, Donna Parks is now a homeowner, thanks to a city program. She’s also president of her co-op’s board. That means that she and the other four board members are ultimately responsible for the care and upkeep of their two buildings. And their two buildings were leaking like a colander.

“We had severe leaks,” Parks recalls. “The basement had a lot of damage. There were areas with mold. At that point, it was suggested to us by another building, 470 Convent Avenue, that we have an architecture and engineering company come out to give us a survey.”

The co-op ended up hiring RAND Engineering & Architecture, which performed a physical survey. “We made the board aware of certain areas that were defective,” says Ivan Mrakovcic, Forensics Team Leader and Construction Phase Director at RAND. “Based on that report, they subsequently hired us to remedy and repair certain areas in the building, including the leaky roof.”

RAND discovered that the parapet walls had been coated with a heavy application of stucco. After probing, the engineering firm found that, underneath that stucco, the masonry wall had deteriorated significantly. The mortar joints were gone. “They were like moist oatmeal,” says Mrakovcic. The buildings needed new roofs and parapet walls, as well as new entranceway stoops and portions of the stairs.

“I don't know what engineer or what architect was overseeing the work [of the original renovation],” says Mrakovcic. “They totally gut-renovated the building, replaced all the joists inside, replaced all the windows, and replaced the roof. Even so, I think it's fair to say they did a less-than-perfect job.”

He adds: “When we embarked upon the project, the parapet wall replacement was not perceived to be needed. There was some stucco [that we] sounded out. When we started [doing that], the hammer pretty much went through the stucco and we encountered this terrible underlying masonry wall.

“We had presumed that since this building had been fairly recently renovated and the repairs were fairly new, the building [would be] in pretty sound condition except for the stucco. Little did we realize that the stucco was hiding a very deteriorated masonry wall.” When stucco is used to cover cracks, he explains, the bricks in the wall can't breathe and that, plus moisture, enables leaks.

The project began on October 14, 2014. RAND reported once a month to Parks, who, Mrakovcic says, was “very engaged and involved.” RAND also met with the contractor, Traditional Waterproofing & Restoration, twice a week during construction, and with the manager, Finger Management, about once a month. The roof and most of the other jobs were completed on July 10, 2015.

The job also included an ancillary project of retrofitting a laundry facility in the basement of one of the buildings, and mitigating basement leaks. That part of the project is still underway. The cost so far, which was paid for out of the reserves, was $400,800.

“I think that has been the best thing that we've done,” Parks says of the decision to hire RAND, “because we see where corners were cut.”

PROJECT PLAYERS – PROPERTY MANAGER: James Carbone at Finger Management. ENGINEER: RAND Engineering and Architecture. CONTRACTOR: Traditional Waterproofing & Restoration.

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