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How Do You Get This 25-Ton Beast Up On the Roof?

Written by Bill Morris on December 26, 2018

Yonkers, Westchester County

Condo board tackles capital project with multiple moving parts.

Board uses "bridge" loan to fix retaining wall.

"Bridge" Loan Helps Co-op Cross Perilous Chasm

Written by Frank Lovece on October 29, 2018

Yonkers, Westchester County

Retaining wall collapse onto railroad tracks nearly derails co-op.

No More Fear of Flooding

Written by Bill Morris on January 03, 2017

Yonkers

A determined co-op board overcomes years of watery misery.

Keeping an Elevator Job on the Up and Up

Written by Bill Morris on December 28, 2016

Yonkers

Co-op board uses a consultant to oversee two elevator replacements.

A co-op board learns to listen to new ideas from unlikely sources.

Flush With Cash? Reverse Assessments May Be for You

Written by Frank Lovece on November 10, 2015

Yonkers

 

Your co-op might be making too much money. Yet sometimes it really can happen: you refinance the underlying mortgage, you refurbish and sell an apartment picked up in foreclosure – and then you have issues with your nonprofit status – and also shareholders wondering why their monthly maintenance is so high if you're rolling in dough.
 
What can you do? Lower the maintenance? Maybe. But if you're Michael Barbara, the 21-year board president of Yonkers' 528-unit Bryn Mawr Ridge Coopersative, you implement a concept that appears to have had no name until he gave it one: a reverse assessment.

Routine Boiler Replacement Hits a Big Snag

Written by Tom Soter on May 20, 2015

Yonkers

Built in the 1950s, 333 Bronx River Road is a 165-unit Yonkers co-op with two new boilers and a whole lot of money saved. The old boilers were impressive — huge but dinosaurs: they did not do the job efficiently or cost-effectively. "We spent $128,000 last year for oil," says Sandro Catalic, a manager at Gramatan Management, the building's agent. "This coming year we predict that, with natural gas, it will probably cost us about $90,000. The savings [should be] dramatic."

The job began more than a year ago, when the five-member board, led by president Thomas Price, discussed options for their decades-old heating plant.

After Hurricane Agnes hit in 1972, the Brooklands complex — 137 apartments in three mid-rise, brick-and-stucco, neo-Georgian buildings — suffered a catastrophic flood. Flood waters engulfed the property again in 2007, thanks to a one-two punch of melting snow and torrential rains that caught the co-op by surprise. It wiped out all three elevators, both boilers, all electric meters and transformers, 96 automobiles, and all 24 ground-level apartments. Luckily, no one died. Kerry Smith, a retired magazine publisher, joined the Brooklands board and immediately got to work trying to convince his fellow shareholders that they needed to prepare for future flooding. Some of the board members had been dragging their feet on the proposal to augment the flood wall that was supposed to protect the property. Then Hurricane Irene and another devastating flood hit in 2011. Smith called the storm "a wake-up call, with a kick in the head." At an open meeting called for October 4, 2011, three foot-dragging board members resigned and were replaced by three people who shared Smith's sense of urgency. The flood wall would be augmented.

They just needed to figure out how to pay for it, and how to overcome the bureaucratic hurdle they were about to face.  

The great French novelist Honoré de Balzac did not have a high opinion of bureaucracies or the people who work in them. "A bureaucracy," he wrote, "is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies."

After two vicious floods and an epic battle with municipal, county, state, and federal bureaucracies, the board of directors and the professionals at the Brooklands co-op in Bronxville could be excused for sharing Balzac's dim view of bureaucracies and bureaucrats. Miraculously, they do not. This is the story of why — and also a story of what your board can expect if it's ever forced to go up against the giant governmental mechanism known as a bureaucracy.

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