The merged Warbasse Houses cooperative tackles a “giant” project
September 29, 2021
The Merged Warbasse Houses on Coney Island are a world apart. This affordable Mitchell-Lama Cooperative consists of five 24-storey towers with 2,585 units that house some 8,000 souls. The cooperative, which opened in 1964, has its own power station, two gas boilers which supply heated or refrigerated water to the fan coils in each apartment. For good measure, the 26-acre property is a Natural retirement community which is a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, which provides corrosive saline air, high winds and occasional flooding. When things go wrong in a property of this size, they go wrong.
A dozen years ago, the half-century-old heating and cooling system began to fail. The leaks became so severe that residents began to refer to the co-op as “Houses of the lower water”. The wooden floors were damaged. The mold bloomed. Patchwork repair costs have increased.
In preparation for a huge impending capital project, the board of directors of the 13-member co-op refinanced the underlying mortgage in 2014, by borrowing $ 200 million of Community Bank of New York, half of which is reserved for the project. Then in 2017, the board hired Stantec Engineering carry out an in-depth study of each building. He then introduced Allied partners serve as the owner’s representative.
“The Stantec report indicated that the entire system was at the end of its life,” says Michael silverman, longtime chairman of the board of directors of the co-op whose family was among the first to arrive when the co-op opened in 1964. “We had to replace all the risers, the five pumps in each building and all of them. the fan coils in each apartment. We were on the brink of complete disaster.
Preparations came first. “A lot of work has gone into planning and product selection,” says Silverman. “The most important thing for the board and management is to make sure you have the right people on your team. There is so much that laymen do not know. Our owner’s representative, Ed Donnelly, It’s incredible. He can answer shareholders’ questions because he has already done this kind of work in occupied buildings. Bringing him in was our best shot.
The preparations included many communication with shareholders. Thomas auletti, the longtime property manager, consulted with the property manager of the huge South Penn cooperative in Manhattan, which had recently tackled a similar project. Auletti has also deployed its eight staff members and 65 housekeepers to tour apartments and solicit residents about their need to move furniture or relocate during work inside their apartments. FAQ sheets were distributed door to door. A psychologist was hired to advise staff on how to deal with grabbers.
The plan was to tackle one building at a time, with an expected completion date of 2024, Then, once the work has been completed in the 517 housing units of the first building, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, stopping the project. As the workers could no longer enter the apartments, the team pivoted. “We were able to adapt and keep the workers engaged,” says Donnelly, the owner’s representative. “We changed the plan by installing isolation valves on the risers, which allows us to work all year round outside the apartments. He adds: “This job is a giant.
Interest payments don’t start until the co-op withdraws some of the $ 100 million that was set aside during the mortgage overhaul. To keep interest payments as low as possible, the board took two maintenance increases – 7% this year and 7% next year, which will help finance the capital project and cover operating expenses. “We rejected a EvaluationSays Silverman, Chairman of the Board. “It would have been a heavy burden for shareholders on a fixed income. “
Despite the huge drawbacks, scope and cost of the project, the setback has been minimal. “Overall, people understand that we had to do this project,” says Auletti, the property manager. “At first it was overwhelming, then COVID threw a wrench at us. Now I feel the pressure to reach our 2024 completion target. But I am also confident that we will find a way.
MAIN PLAYERS – PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Allied partners. ENGINEER: Stantec. LENDER: Community Bank of New York. CONTRACTOR: AC Klem Plumbing.