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Leaks and the LPC: Fixing a Landmarked Facade

Tom Soter in Bricks & Bucks

Jackson Heights

Planning for the facade job began in 2011, but it wasn't until 2013 that planning moved into high gear. Not coincidentally, that's when Miguel Peguero was elected to the board. "I didn't have time for 'blah, blah, blah,'" he explains. "I wanted a solution. I wanted action. The previous board had said, 'We have a management company. They should run it.' I didn't agree. To get action you had to get involved in issues that affected residents. That's my mentality. To be on the board you have to be involved in the problem and resolve the problem and try to move on."

"Over the course of the project, the board changed the managing agent and a new board president came on, and with new leadership, the project got a lot smoother towards the end," recalls engineer Luke Pantaleo, a project associate at RAND Engineering & Architecture, which handled the job." It took a year to get approvals from both the LPC and the Department of Buildings. "To this day, I'm not sure why it took LPC so long to approve the project," says Pantaleo. "By the time we got approvals, it was already getting towards the onset of winter, so we had to delay it to the springtime."

Once the job began, new difficulties cropped up. "It started out as a repair along the parapets, but it quickly expanded," says Pantaleo. "The parapet walls had this stucco coating on it, and it was pretty much falling apart. Along with the exterior of the entire parapet, we had a lot of cracked brick; all the mortar joints were severely deteriorated, and the top-floor units were receiving a lot of water inside."

In the past, applying stucco to the exterior facade was a popular - and relatively inexpensive way - to patch leaks. But it has a downside. "It adds another layer onto the wall," Pantaleo says. "The way this was actually installed, it was directly on the brick, so the brick really couldn't breathe. There was no way for the trapped moisture to get out. Severe cracks, bulging, and spalling developed."

The plan was to remove that stucco surface, and then perform pointing and isolated brick replacement where needed. When the workers started taking off the stucco, however, they realized that the face of the bricks were actually coming off, so that they had to not only remove all the stucco but also had to remove the brickwork, as well. "Because of the limited finances on the building, we were trying to keep the scope as limited as possible so the cost wouldn't escalate," says Pantaleo. Luckily, it was a thicker than average wall, so they could remove bricks without having to replace the entire parapet.

Meanwhile, Peguero, the president, was dealing with the shareholders. "It was taking so long," he says. "It was hard, really hard."

The stucco removal and the replacement and repointing of the bricks was finally finished in 2014, at a cost of $450,000, up from the estimated cost of $323,000), with financing from assessments, a loan, and an increase in maintenance. That project was followed by a replacement of the elevators, which is to be followed by the replacement of the roof. "The parapets were the first component to a much larger issue of water infiltration," Pantaleo notes. "The roof is so old that it needs to be replaced, but we really couldn't do any work until we had the parapet secured."

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