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Code Violations Nearly Sank a Brooklyn Co-op

Lisa L. Colangelo in Building Operations on May 11, 2017

Flatbush

Violations Fix

The co-op in Flatbush that's clearing up nearly $300,000 in code violations. (image via Google Maps)

May 11, 2017

The six-story, brick co-op located at the corner of Foster and Nostrand Avenues has been a fixture in Brooklyn’s Flatbush community for almost 90 years. But financial woes, complicated by a troubling history of fire- and building-code violations, were clouding the building’s future.

“They were really between a rock and a hard place,” says Steven Ramos, account executive at The Ferrara Management Group, which the board hired in 2016 to address the violations and get the 55-unit co-op back on solid financial ground. “There was no money in their account and the only prospect to secure any money for their survival was the escrow money being held onto by their bank.”

But when the bank did a title search, the violations – dozens of them – came to light. “With these items on the title, their prospect of refinancing would be zero,” Ramos says.

The city Department of Buildings (DOB) website shows a total of 31 violations going back more than two decades. Eight of them are still open. The number of Environmental Control Board violations was even larger – a total of 85 over the years, of which 28 remain open.

The violations came in assorted flavors. For example, inspectors were not able to find proof that the boilers and elevators had been inspected, and they noted rusty hoist cables in the elevator. But the largest fines and violations were the result of a cellar apartment that had been constructed without proper permits, along with work on the gas lines. In addition, the Fire Department slapped the co-op with violations for not having its sprinkler system tested and inspected. All told, the co-op was facing close to $300,000 in fines.

James Corley, president of the co-op’s board, says the partnership with Ferrara has been “instrumental” in turning the co-op around. “They take a holistic approach to property management,” says Corley. “They don’t just put a Band-Aid on things. They help get things fixed, and those things stay maintained.”

Ramos says he believes the co-op will end up paying about $50,000 – one-sixth of the original total of fines – thanks to New York City’s amnesty program and a lot of hard work from staffers at the management company.

“You have to have an incredible amount of patience,” says Ramos, noting that in some cases the co-op was fined for work that had already taken place but the proper paperwork was never filed. That meant going back to vendors and contractors to track down the necessary documents. The management firm then tapped into its network of contractors to find people who could make the emergency repairs at a fair price, and it helped the co-op prioritize which violations to tackle first.

Finding older Fire Department violations sometimes required Ramos to take a trip to its MetroTech offices and wait – for hours – until a staffer could comb through files of records not available on computers. And all DOB paperwork had to be delivered to its office at 280 Broadway in Manhattan, where lines can also be long. “You have to know the city process,” Ramos says. “Patience is critical.”

But his patience – and digging – are paying off. Ramos anticipates the violations will be cleared and paid in the coming months, giving the co-op a fresh start.

“We have a plan,” Corley says with relief. “We’re moving forward.”

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