Many co-op and condo boards realized after Hurricane Sandy that they needed to think long-term. Mark Hankin explains to Habitat what that entails.
You represent a condo board that realized, after Hurricane Sandy, that this was not a one-time event, that they need to think long-term. Tell me about this building.
It’s called the Murano Condominium, in Long Island City, Queens. It’s beautiful, but when there’s significant flooding in the neighborhood, water comes into the building. The electrical room was in the basement, and when Sandy hit, they were without power, literally, for over a month. A makeshift operation helped restore power, but they had extensive damage. There was a rebuilding program you probably remember.
Build It Back?
Right. It was being administered by the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), and we invited them to come see the damage, hoping that we could get some grant funds to repair it. They actually brought down an engineer. And the condo board president, who is quite an innovative guy, said to the CPC representatives, “Why would you spend $100,000 to repair my electrical room? Isn't this going to happen again?" And the CPC guy said: “You're right. It’s gonna happen again.”
So rather than just fix it to have it break again, let’s figure something else out?
Yes, so the president of the condo board says, “What we really need to do is to raise my electrical room to the lobby so that if we have another flood, we're not going to be in this situation again.” At this point nobody knew what the cost would possibly be. So the engineer came back, he did diagrams, and he said, “It’s doable.” We were all in shock. They brought in a contractor, and he said we were looking at four to five million dollars worth of work. Then the CPC said they had money left in Build It Back, but the program was going to be closing soon, so we had to use the money before it’s gone. And surprise, surprise, I get a pile of documents in my office, and the president of the condo board and I go over the documents. He’s really hands-on. It’s obvious right away that there are multiple reasons the CPC can pull the financing back. It’s a grant.
Is it your job, as a lawyer, to lessen the chance of that happening?
That's my job. I don't want any client to ever be in a position where they’re on the hook for that $5 million if the CPC were to pull this grant back. I had multiple conferences with their lawyers, and I was able to remove or limit certain consequences. The most important thing for them was timing. They wanted to make sure that the construction was done by a certain time, because if it wasn’t, the grant money would run out.
Did the grant money come through?
The money came through, the work is done, and their electrical room is on the lobby level. They’re ready for the next storm.
What made this happen?
I think it was the foresight of the board president and, to be frank with you, the federal government’s saying, “Why spend $100,000 when we can make a substantial investment and prevent having to make payments like this in the future?” In fact, it's the smartest thing I've ever seen happen with federal funds.