New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

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51 FIFTH AVENUE

Never Mind the Windows, A Board Upgrades the Boiler

Written by Tom Soter, with additional reporting by Kathryn Farrell on January 07, 2015

51 Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village, New York City

They would have preferred to have new windows before they got a boiler upgrade, but the seven professionals who were sitting on the board of the 95-unit co-op were not fools about fuel: getting something for nothing trumps a room with a view (even through new windows). Every time.

The saga started when the manager of 51 Fifth Avenue, Ellen Kornfeld, a vice president at the Lovett Group, alerted the board to a program Con Edison offers through its Oil to Gas Conversion Group. Simply put, as long as the building (1) is a qualified property converting from oil to natural gas; and (2) is requesting a "firm" (i.e., the building only burns natural gas) gas connection, the utility will bring in gas from the street to "the point of entry" (essentially, where the pipe connects with the building). All this depends on another factor, as well: whether the pipes in your area have sufficient capacity.

A Fifth Avenue Co-op Sees the (Energy-Efficient) Light

Written by Abigail Nehring, with additional reporting by Kathryn Farrell on August 28, 2013

51 Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village, Manhattan

The limestone base, decorative fireplaces and beamed ceilings of 51 Fifth Avenue recall a bygone era of ease and elegance. It's little wonder, then, that the 1928 building was chosen to represent the home of the characters on the hit 1990s sitcom Mad About You. For those with longer memories for distinguished luminaries, former New York Governor Al Smith moved to 51 Fifth after losing the presidential election to Herbert Hoover, and lived there until the 1940s.

Last year, luminance of a different sort was on the mind of one building employee. At night, the superintendent, Zoltan Papp, would watch the sun go down from his office at the 89-unit Greenwich Village cooperative. Then the floodlights in the backyard would come on — and stay on all night, casting chiaroscuro shadows in the empty outdoor space until a timer switched them off at dawn.

At 51 Fifth Avenue, the co-op board came into possession last year of a 2,000-square-foot two-bedroom apartment overlooking a church. The board enlisted a broker who told them to put the apartment on the market for $1.5 million as is. That's when the property manager stepped in and put a stop to it.

Every night, Zoltan Papp would watch the sun go down from his office at a 100-unit Greenwich Village cooperative and the floodlights in the backyard flicker on. They would stay on all night, casting chiaroscuro shadows in the empty outdoor space until a timer switched them off at dawn the next morning.

Needless to say, the co-op board found monthly electricity bill an eyesore. With lights on around the clock in the lobby, corridors, elevators and staircases of 51 Fifth Avenue — familiar as the exterior location for Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt's home on Mad About You — it was obvious to the building superintendent no one had ever seriously looked at what the building could do to eliminate the unnecessary electricity costs.

Ask the Experts

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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