Adam Janos in Bricks & Bucks on February 14, 2018
Le Havre on the Water is a 1,024-unit luxury cooperative in Whitestone, Queens. It boasts a health club, two swimming pools, and a tennis court, but, as its name indicates, the co-op’s close proximity to the East River is the crown jewel of its amenities. Ironically, that beautiful river is also related to the co-op’s biggest headache.
“The water table is so significant,” says Steve Young, the co-op board’s vice president. “It creates a lot of issues.”
A major issue is that the water table beneath the complex freezes every winter, which puts pressure on the concrete walkways that connect the 32 nine-story buildings. Over the years, that pressure caused the concrete to crack both on the walkways and on the covered porticos that surround each building. “It didn’t look good,” Young says. “It looked awful.”
The cracked concrete was also a lawsuit waiting to happen. “If somebody trips on a defective sidewalk, the owner of a property adjacent to it could have liabilities,” explains the board’s attorney Geoffrey Mazel, a partner at Hankin & Mazel. “Their sidewalks were in decent shape from a liability perspective, but the board was being proactive."
The cracked concrete wasn’t the only water-induced problem the board was facing. "Every time it rained,” says Young, “we’d have water go right up into the lobby of the buildings. Every time it rained – a hard rain or mild – building No. 5 would have two to three inches of water. Building No. 2 had more significant problems.”
So in 2014, the board hired Merritt Engineering to conduct an assessment. The engineers advised the co-op to remove the broken concrete, dig out four to 12 inches of soil, and lay down plastic sheets and rocks beneath the new rebar-fortified concrete. This prevents water infiltration and the ensuing damage from freeze-thaw cycles. Digging up the concrete around the buildings also allowed the co-op to add a series of drains that addressed the chronic flooding.
Sal Salamone General Contractor was brought on for the job, which will cost the co-op an estimated $3 million by its expected completion in five to six years. Work has moved at steady clip, with Salamone completing three or four buildings per summer in the 28-acre complex, which has stunning views of the Throgs Neck Bridge. Nearly half of the work is complete.
“Since we did this work,” Young says, “we haven’t had one problem.” Best of all, shareholders have barely felt the pinch because the project was largely paid for from the co-op’s reserve fund. According to Young, maintenance fees have increased more than 2 percent just once in the last seven years (a 2.58 percent bump in 2017), even as the complex underwent myriad upgrades, including an oil-to-gas conversion. Young credits board president Stanley Greenberg for the co-op’s fiscal stability, noting that he has “done a great job of developing a reserve fund over the years that’s helped pay for all this work.”
For Le Havre’s shareholders, that has meant an escape from water damage – without a drain on their wallets.
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – ENGINEER: Merritt Engineering. CONTRACTOR: Sal Salamone General Contractor. ATTORNEY: Hankin & Mazel.
Engage, enrage, ask questions and give answers with your community of board members. Submit your questions and comments here!
Co-op and condo board business broken down into bite-sized bits - 2 stories each week. Read now on all digital devices.
A free digital resource for co-op/condo board directors. Published twice a month. Read now on all digital devices.