Tom Soter in Bricks & Bucks
“Everybody loves getting new windows,” says Steve Greenbaum, the director of management at Mark Greenberg Real Estate, discussing the mammoth window-replacement job that is only one of many projects under way at the Island House on Roosevelt Island. This 400-unit, three-building co-op is also currently replacing terrace doors and terrace railings, and applying waterproofing to the facade.
After that’s done, the co-op will put in new circuit-breaker panels, then redo the lobbies and hallways. Most of the money for these projects comes from a capital fund that was set up during co-op conversion talks with the sponsor. Greenbaum declines to give cost figures.
“Window replacement is one of those projects, as intrusive as it is, that the residents enjoy because they get something so tangible, and it's such a great improvement to a building,” Greenbaum observes. “It's a little bit of an inconvenience for everybody, but the payoff is huge. That's why getting new windows tends to be nice, as long as it's done professionally.”
“Professionally” means coordination among management, the building staff, the contractors, and the shareholders. “It's not as painful as everybody makes it out to be,” says Greenbaum. “A window project can be done with minimal complaints. When we did the windows here, not only were people not complaining, but they actually called to thank us for how wonderful the whole process was. That's because they knew what to expect. We gave everybody plenty of advance notice. Any time you're doing a big window project, you need to warn and inform the residents. We had a town hall meeting prior to the work being started with the window company and the engineers. Doing that really takes the sting out of simply getting a letter saying, ‘We're going to start your windows next week. Move your stuff away.’”
Greenbaum met with the shareholders, explaining “who's responsible for what, what we expect of the residents, what you should expect from the contractors, how long it will take, where we're starting, where we're going? What's the schedule look like? What if you can't make it home? What if you need help?”
The property, because of its proximity to the United Nations, has an international array of people as residents. “It's really – I hate to use this word – a melting pot,” says Greenbaum with a laugh. “There are a lot of people who work for the UN, a lot of people who work in Manhattan, a lot of people who are professors, doctors. You’ve got families, singles, the elderly. It runs the gamut there.”
Island House has an unusual history. Built in 1975 as an affordable Mitchell-Lama rental property, it only became a co-op within the last two years. “We were their managing agent while the conversion went on,” says Greenbaum. “Now, they’re a privatized co-op in a world where every other co-op has been around since 1980. They’re trying to catch up. It's a big learning process. We spend a lot of time going over with them what we look at as simple things, that other buildings have done a million times – but that is completely new for them. This is a brand new board, a brand new co-op, and brand new shareholders. It's a really good group of people, and they're very anxious to learn.”
PROJECT PLAYERS – MANAGEMENT: Mark Greenberg Real Estate. WINDOWS: Ecker Window Corp. WATERPROOFING: Xinos Construction.
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