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Greenwich Village Condo Digs Its Way Out of a Leak

Tom Soter in Bricks & Bucks

Greenwich Village

60 West 13th Street
60 West 13th Street

At first, it appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary, reports Michael Larkin, a senior structural engineer at RAND, who was the project manager on the job. "We would put a new system [under the terrace setbacks] where the old system was." RAND sunk a few probes in the affected area, and, says Larkin, "We had gone down to what we thought was the bottom of the structure."

Five contractors bid on the job, which was ultimately awarded to Avarga Contractors. Avarga began work but then the workers noticed an anomaly. The concrete [under the terrace flooring on top of the setback] looked very sandy.

Larkin recalls: "We realized that [the sandy concrete] was only a very thin layer. It wasn't the structure. We started digging, with shovels, deeper, underneath this little portion of thin slab. Underneath that, we found gravel and embedded in the gravel for about say one foot of depth of gravel were pipes. It was an odd sight. You had all these contractors on the setbacks with shovels, digging for who knows what."

These plumbing lines fed the heating and air-conditioning system. Observes Larkin:  "I've seen it before. It's unorthodox and it impacted the design of the new [terrace setback] roofing systems. We had to take into account the presence of this plumbing. We had to add more insulation materials around the pipes."

"They were almost 50-year-old pipes," observes Butler, "and they seemed to be quite deteriorated. We replaced all the plumbing under the penthouse terraces, and then we then installed the pavers and the drains over them." (The condo hired an additional contractor, RVM Plumbing, to do that work.)

Butler, who had studied to be an architect (but ended up becoming a psychotherapist), was very "hands on," reports Larkin, and met with the engineer, contractors, and manager Jeffrey Lamb of J&C Lamb Management regularly (RAND issued 28 site visit reports). Butler, who cites RAND project associate Yessica Marinez and manager Lamb for their terrific work, says: "There are always decisions that have to be made. What kind of drain should you put in? How do you handle it, what should the design of it be? You get several different ideas, and then you have to make choices."

The job began in August 2014, and was finished in July 2015. The original price for the work was set at $175,000, says Larkin, but with the unexpected pipe work, Butler says it ended up more "like $300,000." The job was paid for with two special assessments.

Larkin says the situation was unusual, adding: "I deal with dozens and dozens of these kinds of jobs, but this is more interesting because of this whole thing with the pipes and the digging. It turned out to be a weird project.

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