Lisa Prevost in Building Operations on October 8, 2018
It was 2013 when the board at Windsor Park, a 1,830-unit co-op in Bayside, Queens, began working with its property management team from Akam Associates on an update to their long-term strategic plan. Not a plan for the coming year, or even the year after that necessarily, but a big-picture plan for what the 20-building complex really needed, and the niceties it could benefit from, with the timing to be determined.
“The real key was always, how are we going to fund these improvements?” says Larry Kinitsky, the board president since 1986. “We knew the cost was going to exceed $20 million.”
It wasn’t until 2016 that the board saw its opening. The 10-year Treasury note dropped to a new low, thereby driving bank lending rates low enough to enable Windsor Park to refinance its mortgage and pull out enough cash to pay for the entire $24 million plan. Work is now under way.
The Windsor Park board’s long view on capital improvements is rare among co-ops, but its approach is instructive in that it positioned the board to act only when the time was right. Indeed, at such a large co-op, that kind of thinking is crucial to keeping the operation running smoothly, Kinitsky says, adding: “You have to have some metrics for decisions.”
But smaller co-ops can also benefit from long-term planning – as was the case at Fairview, a 424-unit co-op in Forest Hills, Queens. Since the board’s long-range goal in this case was to slash energy spending, the proactive property manager, Greg Carlson, president of Carlson Realty, has kept his eyes open for opportunities as they arose. Now, as its multi-phase energy projects wrap up, Fairview has managed to cut its fuel and electricity costs in half.
And even more remarkably, neither co-op had to assess shareholders to accomplish their wish list. Windsor Park got the cash it needed for improvements by refinancing. And when it came time to refinance the Fairview’s mortgage in 2015, Carlson persuaded the board to pull out enough cash to cover the roughly $1.5 million cogeneration project (before rebates).
Timing may be everything for a co-op board. But the benefit of taking the long view is not to be underestimated.
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