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Morningside Gardens Co-Op Rolls WIth the Surprises

Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks

Morningside Heights

Morningside Gardens

A refurbished roof and railings at Morningside Gardens co-op. (image courtesy CTA Architects)

In the beginning, it looked like a comparatively routine job. The 980-unit Morningside Gardens co-op in Morningside Heights was gearing up for $4 million worth of facade repairs to be spread over four years. It didn't appear that the board was going to have to resort to drastic measures to raise the necessary funds. “The money was available to the co-op in the reserve fund,” says former board president and former treasurer Lawrence D’Addona. “At the start we had sufficient money available.”

After the board hired CTA Architects to oversee the job, the surprises started coming. “Basically it started out as Local Law 11 work,” says CTA principal G. Douglas Cutsogeorge. “Then when people were on scaffolds, they reported all these leaks nobody knew about. It ended up being facade repair plus leak repairs, and we needed to replace the roofs of all the six buildings. It grew substantially in terms of scope of work.”

To complicate matters further, the city’s requirements for site safety became more stringent during the project. “It’s required by law to have tie-backs for scaffolds,” says Cutsogeorge. “That’s to prevent the scaffold from dropping to the street should it collapse. They didn’t have anything to tie the scaffolds back to. We had to engage an engineering firm to design a series of permanent tie-back anchors that we could install within the structure of the roof, so in the future they would be able to build scaffolds and tie them back correctly. The costs of hiring a third party and to provide the oversight were in addition to the construction cost.”

The extensive work included: repairs to and repointing of the brick facades that addressed spalling and other weather damage; replacement and repairs of deteriorated and delaminated metal-clad bluestone window sills; renovations to selective flashings, lintels, and concrete balconies and rails; gutter and scupper drain repairs; waterproofing of roofs; replacement of all roof rails; and repairs to rooftop elevator bulkheads. As part of repairs to the roofs, the crews installed Siplast adhesive bitumen membrane waterproofing system on all six buildings.

As the initial work was already under way, the term of the co-op’s underlying mortgage was coming to an end. “At this point the corporation needed to secure the funds necessary for the additional repairs,” says D'Addona, who insists that maintenance payments should cover only the operating costs of the building – and not capital projects

“We refinanced [the underlying mortgage] in the second half of 2010,” D’Addona says, “and the funds we received were transferred into the reserve fund. Also, we have significant revenue from flip taxes, which were continuously deposited into the reserve fund. The flip tax monies, combined with the funds from the refinancing, allowed us to cover the cost of all additional repairs in the later phases of the project.”

And so, even as the cost of the project grew to more than $10 million, D’Addona says, “the corporation was able to complete the expanded scope of construction and repairs without having to raise monthly maintenance or levy an assessment on the shareholders.”

Unpleasant surprises – and city regulations that change in mid-job – rarely produce a happy ending on major capital projects. But as the Morningside Gardens board proved, it can be done.

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – ARCHITECT AND CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATOR: CTA Architects. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Brend Renovation. STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Goldstein Associates Consulting Engineers. SUBCONTRACTORS: J.R. Smith Manufacturing Co.; S&S Manufacturing.

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