New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

WESTCHESTER COUNTY

Regardless of what type of emergency for which you're preparing, the hallmarks of your plan should be communication, organization and clarity. If everyone knows what his or her role is in an emergency — including the property manager, board members, shareholders, and building staff — then executing that plan becomes much simpler.

Rivercrest, a six-story, 95-unit cooperative perched beside the Hudson River in Nyack, N.Y., proved to be prophetically named when superstorm Sandy unleashed its fury in October 2012. The river crested its banks, pouring water into the co-op's lobby and its below-grade community room and boiler and laundry rooms. The wooden deck around the swimming pool was rudely swept away.

But for the co-op board and shareholders, the bad news was just beginning. Since the building is located in a flood plain, it was unable to purchase flood insurance from any commercial carrier. And while it was able to buy a federally backed flood-insurance policy, as mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the maximum coverage was just $250,000.

John Bonito has a particular fondness for 209 Garth Road in Scarsdale. Like a first love, that address is tied into his early years as a property manager. No wonder: Although he had lived there in the 1970s, the 99-unit, Tudor-style building, call Thornycroft, became something else in 1981. It was his first co-op client.

"Garth Road was an area with a lot of older buildings that were rent-controlled," he recalls. "You could see it was deteriorating."

When superstorm Sandy hit, co-op and condo owners and many others trying to evacuate and later return home found endless lines at the few gas stations that hadn't completely run out of fuel. Even some emergency vehicles faced gasoline shortages. In response, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has just launched two initiatives under the heading Fuel NY. It includes the nation's first State Strategic Gasoline Reserve and the requirement that about 1,000 gas stations in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County and Rockland County have backup-power generators. The reserve — nearly three million gallons of fuel stored at Northville Industries' terminal in Suffolk County — will be sold to distributors at market prices to provide it to emergency responders, government customers and retail gasoline outlets during emergencies.

New York City commuters on the Hudson Line have been taking train delays in stride this month after a heavy-rain mudslide from the Hudson Court co-op at 679 Warburton Avenue in Yonkers rained concrete, rock and soil over a retaining wall onto railroad tracks, mucking up passage between the Glenwood and Greystone stations. The Lower Hudson Valley paper The Journal News reported that the co-op board issued a statement thanking all the public-sector workers who helped clear the debris. Metro-North will bill the co-op, which presumably has insurance.

When the board of a 39-unit Yonkers co-op 293 North Broadway had to pull a job from a shoddy contractor and bring in new blood, the original contractor promptly put a mechanic's lien on the property. The board could have responded with a lawsuit. Instead, it tried arbitration. Did that procedure work? Yes and no.

When the board of a 39-unit Yonkers co-op 293 North Broadway had to pull a job from a shoddy contractor and bring in new blood, the original contractor promptly put a mechanic's lien on the property. The board could have responded with a lawsuit. Instead, it tried arbitration. Did that procedure work? Yes and no.

The board of a 39-unit co-op in Yonkers recently locked horns with its engineer and contractor over a disputed $1.2 million exterior repair job. Loath to spend time and money on a lawsuit, the seven directors opted to pursue mediation and then arbitration. This board's story has some agonizing moments — and some valuable lessons along the way.

The insurance company and the board were soon wrangling over their widely divergent cost estimates, the scope of the work, what was covered under the policy and when the settlement would be delivered. Eager to get the job moving forward, the co-op board announced it was going to begin repairs in July 2009, seven months after the fire, with the money offered by the insurer — but would continue to fight for a larger settlement. Here, a bit of luck worked in the co-op's favor.

It all began on a cold December afternoon in 2008 at The Broadlawn, an elegant Jazz Era compound that houses 121 co-op apartments in White Plains, N.Y. Workers were repairing the slate roof and repointing the brick façade, and, though the contract stipulated that no acetylene torches were to be used on the job, one worker with the subcontractor was using a torch to speed the drying of mortar before the crew knocked off for the weekend. The flame ignited the roof. Soon the blaze was spreading out of control and a dark black cloud was boiling into the cold winter sky.

This is the story of that devastating fire, which wound up testing the residents, educating them and, finally, making their co-op stronger than ever.

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