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How to Deal with the Little Buggers When Your Building Has Termites

448 W. 50th Street, Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan

Oct. 22, 2014

Step one was to contact the co-op's property manager, Josh Koppel, president of HSC Management, who in turn contacted Baldwin Pest Control and hired Rand Engineering & Architecture to draw up plans for repairing the extensive structural damage.

Drill, Baby, Drill

Under the watchful eye of the super, the exterminator drilled holes through the concrete basement floors and injected underground termite treatment, eliminating the source of the problem — at a cost of about $30,000. Then, the contractor's crew got to work replacing damaged joists and beams. 

"With structural damage, you need to stop the source of the problem first," says Jason Damiano, a project engineer with Rand who replaced the original engineer just as construction was beginning in early 2013. Damiano met with the contractor twice a week during construction to make sure the work was being done to specifications.

"In theory," Damiano notes, "if you don't stop the problem at the source, eventually any wooden building will show serious floor sagging, and might even collapse. Then, once you get rid of the source and fix the structural problems, the issues won't come back, provided the extermination continues."

Bryan Baldwin, founder of Baldwin Pest Control, believes termites are becoming an increasingly severe problem in urban areas. Despite the common notion that New York is a city of steel and glass, he notes that many older neighborhoods — Hell's Kitchen, the East Village and West Village, Chinatown — have buildings with a high wood content.

"As the climate changes, you're seeing termites more and more in the inner city," Baldwin says.

Inspect and Detect; Don't Neglect the Insect

Inspections and maintenance: That's the mantra former board president Mark Dean left with the board when he stepped down as president in June. "The key is detection," he says. "You've got to inspect your building, do the exploratory work.

"This was all due to neglect by the previous board," Dean adds. "I'm very proud that I had a big part in doing this job. We're not a commune, but we're a communal entity. We take care of ourselves rather than having a landlord looking after things." For Dean's successors on the board, the next big challenge is completing the conversion to a cooperative.

They know something else that they had to learn the hard way: the importance of inspecting the building before a minor pest problem morphs into a major headache.


Adapted from "They Came From Below" by Bill Morris (Habitat, October 2014)

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