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Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Red-Tagged: A Condo Copes with Being Gasless

Carol J. Ott in Legal/Financial on October 5, 2015


Photo of Chelsea Seventh Condominium by Jennifer Wu
Chelsea Seventh Condominium
Oct. 5, 2015

On Edge

Gas explosions in buildings over the past couple of years have made both owners and utilities more vigilant. "Con Edison is just cautious, so if there's any question about anything, they just shut it down," says Philip Kraus, president of Fred Smith Plumbing. "I don't blame them. Why take a chance on it?"

Once a building is red-tagged (an actual red tag is placed on the building's gas meter to signify that it has been turned off), there is a protocol to follow to get it turned back on. The problem facing your board, though, is that it doesn't know what the protocol is, it doesn't know how long it will take, and it certainly doesn't know how much it will cost.

"It's not just the repair job that's going to be in front of you," says Mitch Firestone, board president of the Chelsea Seventh Condominium. It's dealing with the uncertainty. That's what "makes people really edgy. I would say, for 90 percent of our owners, that was certainly the case."

Because the uncertainty factor is huge, the whole process could be packaged into a game called "Where's It Leaking?" At the beginning, the only thing that is certain is why the gas was shut off. As the gasless days turn into weeks, then months, you'll learn what condition the rest of your building's gas piping is in, and you'll probably find out that there is more leaking. In order to get a blue card, which means the gas can be turned back on, everything gas-related will have to be brought up to code and the entire building will have to pass a pressure test. In simple terms, this means that three pounds of pressure are blown through the lines – the normal load is one-quarter of a pound. The pressure test is guaranteed to turn up tiny leaks, and they have to be found and fixed.

"If you're the poor, unfortunate board president that has to deal with this," says Firestone, "in the context of 'first world' adversity, this is pretty severe. You'll see an ugly side of people that doesn't often manifest itself. Be prepared for it."

Photo by Jennifer Wu

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