Jason Carpenter in Bricks & Bucks
The boiler at The Sussex burned No. 6 oil, a pollutant. In April 2011, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection passed a rule to phase out soot-producing No. 6 and No. 4 oil from boilers and burners across the city.
According to PlaNYC, just one percent of New York City buildings were still using the soon-to-be-banned oil at that time, yet they produced more soot pollution than all the city’s cars and trucks combined. Under the new rule, all were to convert from No. 6 oil before mid-2015.
Board treasurer Catrina Jones says the building's previous property-management company used the boiler repairs to take advantage of the shareholders "Rather than trying to make repairs, they sold the board an insurance policy through a subsidiary company, without revealing it belonged to the manager," says Jones. "They then refused to process claims, mismanaged our finances, didn't make repairs and didn't address city ordinances to keep the building up to code."
Newgent Management took over in August 2013, facing issues that included several lawsuits and a boiler that frequently broke down in the winter. "The [shareholders] of the building didn't really trust us as newcomers," says property manager Abdullah Fersen. "They had already given up ... because of how they had been mistreated."
Fersen says he was sympathetic to the needs of the co-op owners, but things didn't get better immediately. If fact, he says, the boiler malfunctioned even more after he took over. Although he had inherited the problem, he knew the only way to gain the shareholders' trust was to face the situation head-on. It was a concept that would pay off, but slowly.
The building didn't have the reserve funds to pay for a full $30,000 boiler repair and retrofit, so the manager convinced Pennington, N.J.'s On Time Heating to accept a partial down payment funded by the co-op’s regular income. The balance would come after it had settled debts owed by the previous management company.
"The down payments aren't an issue," explains Daniel Miletic, president of On Time Heating. "You're talking about people who have no heat — you just have to get the boiler working." The building faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to utility companies and contractors in August of 2013, but through settlement with the previous management company and strict budget control, it has worked its way into the black in just under a year.
"We hadn't been able to pay our bills on time in a long time," Jones says, "but now we can because we chose new vendors who don't do unnecessary work." Although the cooperative is generating the same income as before, the board is staying on top of who it employs and how they are used. The result? Come winter, residents won't be left in the cold anymore.
Project start: October 2013
Estimated end: June 2014
● Cleaning boiler and replacing outdated No. 6 oil with No. 2 oil
● Establishing infrastructure for a future gas boiler conversion
Catrina Jones, board treasurer
Abdullah Fersen, property manager, Newgent Management
Daniel Miletic, president, On Time Heating
Estimated market value: $2,178,000
Assessed value: $944,370
Photo by Jason Carpenter. Click to enlarge.
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