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Charles Incandela, vice president, director of management at Alexander Wolf & Company.
You’re managing a 300-unit co-op in Queens where the board has had trouble making decisions. Can you tell us about it?
We interviewed for this property in 2015 with the entire board, which seemed like a terrific group of people who appeared to be happy with everything that was going on. I asked them why they were looking for new management and if there were any issues. For the next 20 minutes, they spewed out 15 to 30 projects, large and small – and some of them going back 30 years – that hadn’t been done. Their management company was a very reputable firm, but it seemed as if the manager assigned to them couldn’t give them the guidance they needed to help them make those important decisions.
How did you tackle the problem?
Well, we started attacking the larger projects. They had a cracked sewer line that ran about 600 feet from the back of the property all the way out to the main street to the sewer system. They had a floor sinking in one of the buildings. They had water intrusion issues, roof issues, heating issues, and drainage issues. The doorson the building were original, which meant they were more than 60 years old.
The scope of it must have been overwhelming.
I think it was for them, in the way that it had been handled previously. As a director of management, I want to make sure we always have the right person on every property. Some buildings are easier to manage than others, but it was clear that this one would require us to have our hands all over it for the next couple of years in order to help the board address what needed to be done.
Was money an issue?
No, they had the money. They had refinanced a couple years back and had about $2 million set aside for capital projects but had never started any of them. Essentially, I think there was a fear of failure, of making the wrong decision. I looked at the proposals they had gotten previously, which were all over the place. There were no specifications that had been put together. On one of them, which was for a flooding problem, I saw the name of an engineer I knew, so I wanted to utilize what he had already done and move forward.
How did you do that?
The board had never met him, so I brought him to a meeting and had him explain how and why he came up with his plans. He showed them the corrective measures that needed to be done, which included tying the gutter and leader system into a single drainage system. He wanted to install more dry wells – there was only one, but we needed six – to stop the flooding. Every time it poured, they’d have four inches of water in the courtyard, and people would have to wade through it to get to their front doors.
So it sounds as if the key here is education and leadership.
Yes. Not every board needs it, but this particular one did. The year after we came on, one of the board members did not seek re-election and someone was appointed who had a more technical background, which helped in moving everything forward. Now we bring in every vendor to meet the board. If they’re going to be doing a $150,000 job, I need them to spend an hour with the board, walk the members through the project, and explain how it’s going to affect owners. Meeting face-to-face has worked on every project so far.
The co-op board at Flower View Gardens in Floral Park, Long Island, had done everything right. In 2013, the board refinanced the underlying mortgage, setting aside $2 million to pay for an ambitious wish list of capital improvements. The board planned to put new roofs on the 12 low-rise brick buildings, upgrade energy systems, fix a basement sewer backup, and tackle rainwater that sometimes flooded one of the building entrances. But first the board decided to pluck the low-hanging fruit by replacing compact fluorescent light fixtures with energy-efficient LEDs. Easier said than done.
“We were not getting bids on time, and we were not getting enough information,” says James LaManna, president of the co-op board. “When the manager presents you with three bids, with different light fixture counts and different fixtures, you can’t make a comparison. We weren’t getting enough support to help us make informed decisions.”
Clearly, something had to give. The board fired its property manager and brought in Alexander Wolf & Company – and immediately began to make progress on its list of capital improvements. The key was education.
Learn more at Habitat Magazine
We would like to remind you to maintain an operable fire extinguisher in your residence for use in case of a fire incident. Doing so may very well help to minimize damage/injury to you, your neighbors, your property, and that of the association.
For your review and reference, please see the following general fire safety tips.
Condominiums: Owners of residential condominium units should purchase a H0-6 homeowners policy. This policy should include property coverage for the unit owner’s personal property such as furniture, clothing and electronic equipment. Building coverage should be included for any part of the unit that unit owner is responsible to insure per the bylaws of the condominium. Additions & Alterations coverage should be included in the policy for any upgrades to the unit that the current or previous owner made to the unit such as upgraded kitchens, bathrooms floorings and wall coverings. Liability coverage should be included in this policy at a limit of not less than $500,000. Loss of Use and Loss Assessment coverages should also be included in this policy.
Cooperatives: Owners of residential cooperative units should purchase a H0-6 homeowners policy. This policy should include property coverage for the shareholder’s personal property such as furniture, clothing and electronic equipment. Additions & Alterations coverage should be included in this policy for any upgrades made to the unit such as upgraded kitchens, bathrooms, floorings and wall coverings. Liability coverage should also be included in this policy at a limit of not less than $500,000. Loss of Use and Loss Assessment coverages should also be included in this policy.
Renters/Sub Lessees: Tenants of rented and/or sub-leased units should purchase a H0-4 homeowners policy. This policy should include property coverage for the tenant’s personal property such as furniture, clothing and electronic equipment. Liability coverage should also be included in this policy at a limit of not less than $500,000. Loss of Use coverage should also be included in this policy.
Homeowners Associations: Owners of units in residential homeowners associations may need to purchase an HO-3 homeowners policy HO-3 homeowners policies provide property coverage for the structure (dwelling) of the unit as well as property coverage for the unit owner’s personal property such as furniture, clothing and electronic equipment. The bylaws should advise if dwelling coverage should be purchased as well as other insurance requirements that the unit owner is responsible for. Liability coverage should be included in this policy at a limit not less than $500,000. Loss of Use and Loss Assessment coverage should also be included in this policy.