Bill Morris in Green Ideas on April 5, 2016
When they set out to repair the damage inflicted on their underground space by Hurricane Sandy, the board of directors at a 160-unit co-op on East End Avenue in Manhattan decided to find out exactly what shareholders wanted to do with their prized subterranean asset.
“We think transparency and communication are very important,” says Justine Parchment, who moved into the building in 2007 and was elected to the board in 2013, the year after Sandy sent water from the nearby East River surging into the 17-story brick building’s underground mechanicals, laundry room, staff lounge, manager’s office, workshop, and storage space.
“As a shareholder,” Parchment adds, “I felt it was important to get feedback. So we sent out surveys to find out what kind of amenities people preferred. It was clear that storage lockers were the top priority.”
Priority Number 2 came as a surprise. “Storage lockers were followed by bike storage,” Parchment says, adding that the creation of a fitness room was another high priority. “We realized the demographics of our building are changing: there are younger people coming in who might be more active and have a greater use for bikes and bike storage.”
The East End co-op has plenty of company. Board members, property managers, and brokers agree that as the city’s amenities race heats up – and as bike ridership continues to rise – bicycle storage has moved near the top of the list of offerings that make co-ops and condos attractive to ever-more demanding buyers.
Armed with the results of the shareholder survey, Parchment got busy. She started by contacting several companies that sell and install storage lockers and bike racks, checking out product options and prices. Then, after deciding that Giant Industrial Installations of College Point, Queens, offered the most suitable product, she went exploring, accompanied by the company’s president, Jamie Barnard.
“Jamie was key in helping me bring my vision to life,” Parchment says. “He was incredibly knowledgeable about his WireCrafters products, and he was willing to customize and work within the limitations of our space. He was able to show us the different systems he’s installed in other buildings, and I wanted to see them in person. I was introduced to property managers, and I asked questions: How much do you charge for bike storage? How would you do it differently?”
Barnard appreciates how important bike storage has become in New York buildings. “Today, the amenities race is incredible,” he says, “and we’re hearing that bike storage is a must-have amenity, especially if you’re close to a park. It’s not as sexy as a theater room or a rooftop terrace or virtual golf, but it’s right on top of the list.”
Property managers advised Parchment, virtually unanimously, to charge a fee for bike storage – not only to generate revenue, but to keep the area orderly. Chaos, they told her, is a big problem in bike storage rooms. If there are no assigned spaces or charges, people have a tendency to neglect bikes, abandon them, or stack them on top of other bikes. Fees for a space run from about $50 to $200 a year.
When Barnard started designing the bike storage in the East End co-op, he was helped by what the board had already done. “They were very thorough, they did their homework,” he says. “Usually we’re given a square-footage of space and told to maximize it. But they wanted spaces for 55 bikes. We were able to customize the architectural plan. The bikes are hung vertically, either on racks attached to the walls or to a custom-made tube-steel frame. As a result of the space we saved on the bike storage, we were actually able to increase the space for storage bins by four or five bins, for a total of 72.”
The co-op was thrilled with the result – and by the bonus it delivered. “Our basement refurbishment project was able to accommodate a similar number of storage bins and bikes in a smaller area (than we’d expected),” Parchment says. “This improvement was not only more user-friendly...but it also provided the much-needed space to offer shareholders another valuable amenity – a new fitness room.”
For this co-op, Hurricane Sandy proved to be a blessing in disguise.
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