Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks on January 17, 2018
The Romanesque Revival townhouse at 153 Lincoln Place in Brooklyn’s Park Slope Historic District has a rich history. This elegant brick-and-brownstone gem was built in 1887 from designs by the architects Lamb and Rich, who are renowned for the magnificent Main Building at Pratt Institute. But over time, 153 Lincoln Place declined, and in the 1980s it wound up as a notorious brothel. Then, in 2009, the building was converted into a 10-unit condominium.
“We just loved the building,” says Melanie Smith, current president of the condo board. “But the prices were high, and we couldn’t afford it. Then in the middle of the financial crisis the prices came down, and we finally decided to buy.” After being reassured that the roof had been rebuilt, the Smith family moved into their dream apartment on the top floor of the refurbished four-story building.
Over time, their dream became a nightmare. “At first we didn’t fully realize the problem,” says Smith. “It started as a slow leak. We would open our closet and think, hmmm, it looks a little wet there in the back of that closet. Is something leaking? It looked like little leaks, but then it got bigger and bigger. And then we realized that it came in through the roof. We had a leaking roof.”
In 2013, a roofing contractor tried to repair the sloped, slate-tile roof. “That was a debacle,” says Smith. “We had mold in our apartment, and when the mold remediator came, he said the wall was still wet and he couldn’t do the work while we still had a leak. And we thought everything was fixed.”
The board started litigation against the developer, claiming there were construction defects throughout the building. In order to document their case, the board hired RAND Engineering & Architecture to evaluate the building. In 2014, the board retained RAND to oversee a complete roof replacement along with an extensive exterior-restoration program. This included work on brick, copper, and the clay coping segments that drain water. Wood and metal window trim was removed, replaced, or secured. Piping atop the chimney was replaced with historically appropriate clay flues. Decorative finials were refurbished.
“We brought the job in at $355,864,” says architect Ivan Mrakovcic of RAND. “We had to work closely with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to maintain the building’s historical character and style, but we did bring the building back to its original glory.” There were glitches. “Due to some miscommunication with the contractor, we needed more slates,” says Mrakovcic. “But we still brought the project in within less than 10 percent of the original estimate.”
Altogether, the extensive repairs cost between $400,000 and $500,000, which the board financed with two lump-sum assessments. A $400,000 assessment was levied in the spring of 2015, ranging from $29,650 to $47,180 per unit. A second assessment of $150,000 in early 2017 ranged from $11,100 to $17,210 per unit. The board also raised the common charges.
“We didn’t have much money in our reserve fund,” Smith says. “Now we’re working to remedy that problem. Raising the common charges felt fair since ours were low for the neighborhood. But, despite all the problems and the financial burden, I would do it again. I have no regrets. Now we have a beautiful building without any leaks.”
The litigation against developer Louis Greco, principal of Second Development Services, is moving forward. Greco did not respond to a request for a comment.
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – ARCHITECT: RAND Engineering & Architecture. CONTRACTOR: K Restoration & Roofing. MANAGEMENT: EK Realty.
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