New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

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YONKERS

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.

The Bryn Mawr Ridge co-op in Yonkers has been able to pull itself up from a state of near-extinction to robust health following a simple tenet: turnover, then buy down.

Back in the early nineties, the sponsor of the 528-unit, 19-building garden apartment complex went belly-up. The bank took over 239 unsold units — then went out of business itself.

Crest Manor is a seven-story, 160-unit co-op at 377 North Broadway, in Yonkers, N.Y. The 35-year-old property has been dealing with crumbling infrastructure for years, according to longtime managing agent Darek Chrzanowski of Stillman Property Management, who says that the time for stopgap repairs had passed. The building needs to replace its balconies, refurbish the swimming pool and fix the two-level parking garage. Budgeted for $2.5 million, the projects are being funded by a refinancing of the co-op's underlying mortgage.

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 board of directors at the 78-unit Yonkers co-op needed to replace the super. The logical choice was the building's longtime porter, who knew the quirks of the 1920s vintage building and was highly popular with the shareholders. Only trouble was that English was the porter's second language. And he was not very fluent at it, either. 

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