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Northbridge Park Cooperative, Fort Lee, N.J.
Allan Heussinger is bullish about his building, a 14-story co-op that towers over Fort Lee, New Jersey. He’s lived at the Northbridge cooperative, a 270-unit property for nearly three decades, and has the know-how that comes with experience. It doesn’t hurt that he has been involved with real estate for many years and has an MBA in finance.
He’s not too concerned about the past, though. He’s on about the future. “We are doing projects over the next 10 years,” he notes with a tinge of pride. It happens to be something that he knows a bit about since he serves as chairman of the building’s engineering committee. In the last few years, he has been busy, too, overseeing the replacement of the cooling tower and the repair of the windows, elevators, hallways, and roof. The future promises more change: there are plans afoot to replace the chiller; install new exhaust fans (with variable, energy-saving speeds); and restore the garage deck.
“I have been doing this for 30 years. My background is as an attorney previously practicing real estate law. I am also a court-appointed 7A-Administrator for problem/distressed buildings mostly in Upper Manhattan. My academic and actual experiences are most valuable to serving on the board.”
As the owner of a real estate development and management firm in New York City specializing in the renovation of residential buildings for affordable housing, Heussinger knows what he’s talking about. His expertise was handy in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Following the water infiltration caused by the storm, the board of directors commissioned an engineering study from Rand Engineering & Architecture at a cost of $10,000. “We had a study done as to what the useful lives would be; what the estimated cost would be,” Heussinger explains. “What are the priorities? That way, we knew where we have to go. We wanted to do that methodically.”
The long-term plan began with the roof, and the most recent job the co-op had was to deal with a severe leak problem. “We had leaks coming out of every corner of the building,” recalls Heussinger. “The building is about 60 years old. We discovered that there were certain defects in the original construction, weep holes were blocked up, and the inner wall was cracking. We were getting tremendous amounts of complaints from shareholders and residents.”
In addition to the leaks, “the concrete itself was so deteriorated it was falling off because the water was getting inside the walls,” reports Esin Pektas, senior architect at Rand Engineering & Architecture. Pektas oversaw the project, which began on September 11, 2013.
The work itself went relatively smoothly, with the board plugged in as needed. “We met with the board whenever necessary,” the architect recalls, noting that the directors received weekly, detailed reports on the job. With the board, the manager, the super, and the committee members, she notes: “We were dealing with almost 15 people, and it was just in perfect harmony. They asked for explanations and presentations, and asked how much things would cost, the schedules. They were very involved. The job ended on August 25, 2014 and cost $1,731,200. To pay for it, the board refinanced its underlying mortgage on February 1, 2013 for $21,000,000, taking out extra money as part of a long-term strategy to repair and upgrade the property.
“This board is very proactive,” observes Christopher J. West, the general manager at Northbridge Park Cooperative. “They are a great board to work with, and this is a great place to live.”
Heussinger, an involved owner paired with an involved board, agrees – otherwise he wouldn’t spend at least six to seven hours a week on board business, excluding regular meetings and special meetings. “I do it because I am a long-time resident of Northbridge Park Co-op and want to be assured that the building is on solid footing and going in the right direction in the future. Many shareholders rely on my skills and experience and I am committed to make certain that this reliance is well-deserved.”