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Co-Op in Crown Heights Faces Major Structural Repairs, Displacing Residents

Emily Myers in Building Operations

Crown Heights

Sinking Floor

Cracked tiles and tipping wall cabinets at the Brooklyn co-op revealed major structural issues. (Photo courtesy Albert Delija/New Bedford Management)

First came a third-story shareholder’s concern that her bathroom floor was sinking. Then, when the board brought in an engineer late last year, similar problems were identified in other apartments at the 100-unit prewar co-op in Crown Heights, including tilting kitchen cabinets and cracked floors. After a series of probes, the board received some very bad news — there was structural deterioration in a line of apartments. “It’s a building with six floors, so we now have to repair from the basement up,” says the co-op’s board president.

Fortunately, collapse is not imminent. But a central line of apartments facing an interior courtyard needs to be demolished and rebuilt to restore the structural integrity of the entire building. Due to the complexity of the project, the co-op has turned to its management company, New Bedford Management, to coordinate all the moving parts — including foundation repairs, replacing walls and floors, shutting down gas and water lines, negotiating access with residents, and rehousing shareholders in the five affected apartments. 

Repairs to the first-floor apartment — which requires the most work because it has concrete floors and steel beams and is above the basement — began in April and are expected to take three to four months. “Under it there are gas lines, plumbing lines and risers that need to be protected and shut down,” says Andras Joo, head of owner's representation at New Bedford Management. As the work continues up the line of apartments, the construction is expected to speed up. “It’s just opening floors and wood joist repairs, which is lighter construction work,” he explains. 

The co-op, which has a mix of one- and two-bedroom units and a diverse population ranging from seniors to young families, recently increased maintenance to help pay for facade and parapet repairs and a full roof replacement. The board had planned to simply waive maintenance for shareholders who are being forced to move out, which is mandated by the proprietary lease. However, the high rents in the area prompted the board to go a step further: In addition to waiving maintenance, it has set aside $25,000 to fully subsidize the rent for the displaced shareholders. Even so, finding appropriate rentals to meet their needs takes time. “All want a similar location, some have multiple children, some want furnished, one apartment will take a week to fix, another three months,”  says Andras Joo, head of owner's representation at New Bedford. “Vacating people is always the most sensitive part.”

In the meantime, Albert Delija, New Bedford’s lead owner’s representative to the co-op, has his hands full coordinating the extensive work with the residents who remain. “It’s like conducting an orchestra,” says Delija, who is on site to monitor and track progress, and ensure that shareholder and co-op property is protected. “Managing shareholder expectations and involving them in some aspects of the project planning so they feel heard and accommodated is key,” he says. 

The construction work and additional rental costs are being paid for by an assessment over the next three years. “We are stretching it out over a long period of time so the impact is not as bad,” says the building’s board president. The goal is to keep construction costs below $200,000, but since the work is based on inspections of a small fraction of the joists, more issues might still be uncovered. “We know there are foundations that need to be addressed, but we won’t know the exact extent of it until the floor and ceilings are opened up,” Joo says. A big part of Delija’s role is to plan for surprises with the goal of avoiding any increase in the cost and timeframe of the project, which is currently expected to be completed by the fall.

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