A Plea for immediate action by Central Park Owners
Please allow me, a nine-year resident/owner at Central Park, to share my thoughts about the CPOA Board’s decision to transfer responsibility for urgently needed window replacements from the association to individual owners as an option no less.
I view this decision as a three-alarm fire, and the most short-sighted and irresponsible policy decision in the history of Central Park, and that is saying a lot. Quite frankly, in my opinion it is just one of many governance miscues by the board over the last year.
If ever there was a threat to our community’s long-term stability and growth, this is it. If allowed to stand, this blunder will doom our exterior façade to a checkerboard look that will be impossible to ignore; and it may well come to define the 2021 CPOA board as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight or more precisely, the residential community governing board that blew it.
This is an urgent matter
Make no mistake, this is an urgent matter because once the train leaves the station, there will be no turning back. Think about it, please! Can Central Park Residences ever reach its true potential without uniformity of windows and other common elements? Of course not. It is a policy that will put a cap on future appreciation of home values at Central Park.
It will become a matter of discussion at every real estate showing from now on. It will be the most discussed consideration in determining a purchase price and will almost assuredly become our Achilles’ heel and perhaps even our Windowgate.
Forcing responsibility for window replacement on owners will likely make us ineligible for any future grants or incentives that might be offered to our community to help offset window replacement costs. As owners, we will receive very little if any benefit from the economies of scale that accompany large scale capital improvement projects that submit a set of detailed specifications for competitive bidding.
No Competitive Bidding on a Multimillion Dollar Project…who does that?
Without competitive bidding, how much more will owners pay for windows… 25%, 30%, 35%, more? And what about the loss of savings from the energy efficiency that won’t be achieved because new windows are optional and judging by recent social media comments, most owners are likely to opt out?
Everyone will share the burden of those lost operating expense savings, even those who might have replaced windows at their own expense. Bottom line, Central Park will never enjoy the maximum benefits of an energy efficient climate control system, and that will damage values and perceptions from increasingly sophisticated home buyers.
Home Values will be adversely affected
Windows and HVAC improvements in high-rise buildings call for an integrated and holistic approach in order to achieve maximum efficiency, while remaining mindful of aesthetic considerations which are often perceived as having as much or more value than out-of-sight mechanical improvements.
For instance, which would you consider adding more value in the minds of prospective Central Park buyers – new chillers and boilers in basement mechanical rooms or beautiful new energy efficient windows from top to bottom?
As a seasoned real estate professional with 35 years of experience, I assure you it is the later not the former. The towers need both; but windows are more critical because they add not only energy and operating cost savings, but also transformational ascetic improvements that along with painting will perpetually change the way the public views our property.
Due Diligence is Sorely Lacking
To be blunt, the process has been flawed from the beginning by continuing a long-standing CPOA practice of turning to contractors rather that beginning with design and engineering professionals to address plumbing, electrical, climate control and energy efficiency problems. Without all new windows, the most highly efficient HVAC system in the world would be compromised and unable to perform to its maximum efficiency from the beginning.
History has proven this to be a failed strategy at Central Park for decades because anticipated cost savings are almost never realized and while these repairs may appear expedient at the time, they almost always end up costing more than doing it right in the first place. We have seen this time and again.
Recommended Next Steps
Without the support of any of the multi-unit owners, I once again narrowly missed getting elected to the 2021 CPOA Board. Had I been elected I would have advocated for a more professional approach, by engaging the services of a full-service architectural firm to help lead the effort. They would conduct an audit of existing conditions, review original construction documents, and develop a window replacement strategy for Central Park that considers options at two or three price points, with ballpark estimates for total costs presented to the board for consideration.
At that point, the board would engage in their due diligence, answer questions and survey owners to determine which of the options has the most support. Concurrently, the board would seek input from lenders and or financial advisors on how best to schedule and fund window replacements either through assessments and or dues increases.
Once a determination is made on how to fund new windows, the architectural firm would (1) proceed to write detailed specifications for the manufacture and installation of new windows, (2) develop a list and invite qualified bidders, (3) evaluate the proposals and make an award, (4) oversee various phases of the project to ensure compliance with the written specs.
It’s not too late, but time is running out
As it is, the present board has done none of those things. First, they abandoned the idea of universally replacing Central Parks’ 50-year-old windows. And they did this unilaterally without surveying owners to gage their support for the idea. Then they engaged a single source supplier and accepted the specifications offered by them rather than researching alternatives and developing their own set of specs. That action has virtually eliminated any prospects for competitive bidding.
Sadly, the entire process has lacked transparency and input from anyone other than board members. The FAM Committee has not been involved, and communications about the project have been highly manipulated by the board to suit their own purposes. There has been no attempt to present side by side comparisons detailing the pluses and minuses of the alternatives and how window replacements as Central Park should be handled; and whether they should be replaced universally by the association or individually as an option by owners. Shouldn’t this be the least we expect from our governing board?
Please don’t be timid about speaking up
It’s a royal mess fraught with the risk of potential legal challenges which could wind up being decided in court. This is not the way our governing body should be doing business. My biggest concern at this point is what happens next. In my experience, most owners are reluctant to express their opinions, especially when they are seen as contrary to what is being proposed by the board. People don’t want controversary, they don’t want dissention, they don’t want to jeopardize relationships with their friends and neighbors by appearing to take sides. So, most of the time, they say nothing. In this case, silence could pave the way for a monumentally disastrous decision to stand, one that will adversely affect the marketability of units at Central Park, permanently!
Time to hit the pause button, before it is too late
I am calling for a timeout, a pause, to re-evaluate options and decide on the best course of action. No blanket authorization for individual owners to contract for new windows, no discount schemes to create model units, no irreversible actions. There simply is no urgency for a window replacement decision now. We need more information and a thorough analysis of the alternatives including their advantages and disadvantages. I encourage everyone to think about the long-term repercussions of a policy that does not require the replacement all windows, ensuring a checkerboard look, most likely forever. If you are the least bit concerned about any of this, now is the time to speak up before it is too late, or forever hold your peace.
Parting Note: I will follow this post with several more, detailing other decisions by the 2021 Board that I consider to be highly suspect. Four current board member positions will soon be up for election, and I encourage interested owners to consider running. We desperately need some strong candidates to throw their hat in the ring because I have no confidence in the present group and I think when you hear some of the details I plan on sharing, you may have concerns as well.