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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
  Questions For Supers - 700 to 749  



"Knowledge is, indeed, that which, next to virtue, truly and essentially raises one man above another." -- Joseph Addison


frequently asked questions  ask a question  questions by category

last update on Thursday January 31, 2008 09:40 PM PT

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The information given on these question and answer pages has been carefully checked and is believed to be accurate; however, no responsibility is assumed for inaccuracies. All answers sent in and published on these pages are the sole opinions of the authors and do not represent any legal, medical, or professional advice.

The Supers Technical Association reserves the right to make changes to any and all content without notice, and to edit all questions and answers received for accuracy or clarity, or for any other purpose.

Although the Supers Technical Association believes the content to be accurate, complete, and current, the Supers Technical Association makes no warranty as to its accuracy or completeness of the content. It is your responsibility to verify any information before relying on it. The content of this site may also include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. From time to time changes will be made, without prior notice, to the content herein.

Do not construe any answers we give as legally binding in any way. We don't practice law and do NOT dispense legal advice.





  Question #749: I have a connex box office on the outside of my building and I need 125 amp service (220V single phase power supply). I know I need to run #2 stranded copper, but what type of conduit would be suitable for above ground use to this building from the main building ? Post your answer

Answer: You will need to consult with a licensed electrician.

  Question #748: What are the training requirements and the duties for a person hired as a fire watch? Post your answer

Answer: Fire guards are required in order to reduce the threat of fires in a variety of locations. For example, they are required in places of public assembly, hotels, film studios, construction sites, office buildings and marinas. Fire guards are used when a sprinkler system is not installed, e.g., at construction sites. Fire guards are also used when an automatic fire protection system is shut down while being repaired. The fire guards are responsible for making sure that fire safety regulations are obeyed. Fire guards must have a good working knowledge of basic fire fighting and fire protection techniques. They must know the location of all fire protection devices in their areas of responsibility. They must make sure that these devices are in good working conditions at all times. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #747: What are the keys to ensuring an internally promoted super is made to feel wanted, respected, and supported in order to solidify the possibility of his long term success, stability, retention, and obviously, his performance. Post your answer

Answer: I assume you are not the super but either a board member or other. The keys as you put it, vary from super to super. As Bill has already stated, communications, respect and trust are very important and probably are the core keys. But being individuals, that we all are, different keys effect different people. "different strokes for different folks" I believe it was once said. You need to find exactly what the new super holds close to him as his goals or needs. Find those out and help him/her achieve them, is the best motivator. Pats on the backs work ok for the short term. Another core key would be involvement. Making the super part of the team seeking out his opinion and helping him to develop into a better super. Get him a membership in this organization is a good start. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: In my opinion the major "keys" would have to be respect, trust, and communication. Unfortunately, most owners, co-op boards, and to a lesser degree, managers, do not have the foggiest idea what these "keys" are.  Or they might be aware of their existence, but knowingly deploy them with extreme stinginess. Most co-op boards, owners and managers still consider most superintendents as over glorified porters!  However, in this unbalanced equation, you (the Superintendent) must do your best to rise above it. Please read the eloquent advice, given by our STA president Mr. Peter Grech. here, I think he sums it up very well! Bill Aristovulos

  Question #746: I was wondering if you could help me with any information or advice on the following issue. My father has been a live-in 2nd super for 13 buildings, 260 units for over 10 years. No Union, very low-wage. The company wants to fire him for no specific reason, claiming “they are thinking of the future”. He is 66 years old. The buildings are rent stabilized and he has older leases with the previous landlord (buildings were sold to his current employer two years ago) which states that rent is waived as long as he is an employee. The new company hasn’t renewed this lease in spite of my father's numerous requests over the past year. I know that landlords are required to provide lease renewal for rent controlled buildings so it probably doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have a current one (?) I suspect the landlord is highly determined to have him vacate the apartment. The question is, given his old lease, will my father be able to legally remain in his apartment and start paying the rent amount stated in the older contract (probably a little higher by now) after he is terminated from the job? Post your answer

Answer: If your father has a proper rent stabilized lease, for his apartment, then the new owner must honor the lease. The law states that the owner must offer a new lease renewal 150 days or so before the lease expires. If you contact the Rent Stabilization Association they can help with what the new rent would be and also help your father settle this, by giving him better advice that I can. The other agency that can help would be HPD. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #745: The superintendent of my building has done sloppy repairs in my apartment. I've complained about him several times. I would like someone else to do the remaining repairs, but the landlord refuses to send anyone else but him. Is there anything I can do about this? Post your answer

Answer: No. the super works for the landlord. You should ask other tenants how they find the super's work. If others are ok with it, perhaps then it is something personal between you and the super. If they all say yes, he is sloppy, then it's the super. This is only a suggestion and I don't know if you have tried this already or not, but, perhaps. 1. Talking in a personal and candid manner with the super and find out if there is something going on. You never know. 2. Perhaps a tip would work well. I don't want to go into the issue of tipping, as it would be a long topic. I know you pay your rent and deserve service, but never the less, a good tip works wonders. (not sure if you tried that) Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #744: What are some things I can do as a super to my building to get it ready for weather change? I need a spring/summer maintenance checklist. Post your answer

Answer: This Month, on May 22, 24, 25 check the calendar for dates, times and location, there will be a workshop on auditing a building and Identifying the top 10 items in your building. This would go hand in hand in what you asked for. Click here for more information.  Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: Our Association, STA has published a Free, three page pamphlet on Seasonal Maintenance. Email me your email address and I will email it to you. Anyone else interested in it, can also email me. Please put in the subject box Seasonal Maintenance. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #743: How often is a sprinkler system inspection required by the Fire Department for brownstone buildings? Post your answer

Answer: Brownstone or 70 story building are all the same. Sprinklers are to be inspected every month, using a check list by a holder of a certificate of fitness for sprinkler for your system. This inspection report must be posted near the main sprinkler control valve. Every Five years a pressure test is to be performed by a licensed plumber. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #742: I have been the super for a 61-unit building in the Bronx for 3 years. I am the only person employed here. It is a co-op, but the sponsor still owns about half of the units. For a year now the board has complained that the backyard has not been maintained. I have done my best, despite not having a leaf blower. I have a lot to do, and leaves in a yard that is not used, is at the bottom of my list. I work on it on my slow days. We also have a landscaper who only cleans the front yard. They suspended me for 3 days for not getting it done quick enough. I have had no problems for 3 years, the tenants love my work and how much things have improved since I took over from the old super. I have been told I am in Local 187. No one can seem to get me in touch with them. What can I do to protect myself? Post your answer

Answer: If you are in the union, do whatever you have to do to get in touch with them and ask for their support.

  Question #741: What is the generally accepted useful life of the following components of a buildings (in this case 16 stories 110 apartments) heating plant:
  • Fuel Tank
  • Burner
  • Boiler
  • Vacuum Pump
  • Heat Timer

Post your answer

Answer: The state Division of Housing and Community Renewal, DHCR has a schedule of useful life that they use when owners of buildings apply for a major capital improvements (MCI). For fuel tanks: in vaults - 25 yrs, underground - 20 yrs. For Burners - 20 years. For boilers; Cast Iron - 35 yrs, Steel - 25 Yrs. As stated below, any numbers are just estimates and greatly depend on the maintenance program being applied. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: A fuel tank (20-40 years) has a wide spread in useful life span, depending on type of fuel, below or above ground, and proper maintenance. It is essential that a tank be properly cleaned every 5-7 years, to remove corrosive sludge and moisture, that tends to build up on the bottom of the tank.  A burner (20-30 years) varies, depending on type of oil and size. Larger burners, more often, tend to be rebuilt or upgraded, rather then total replacement. For instance, blower motors, relay controls, metering pumps, electric heaters, etc. are replaceable parts, that do get replaced on an ongoing basis. Boilers (5-60 years) Your building probably has a steel "Fire Tube" boiler. These, with proper ongoing tube cleaning and replacement, a proper and comprehensive water treatment regime, have been known to last over 60 years.  I have seen some cast iron "sectional" boilers last as little as 5 years due to poor water management and return leaks. (return leaks allow for constant water make up, the fresh water is full of oxygen. The released excess oxygen literally rusts out the cast iron sections) Vacuum pumps, (5-15 years) vacuum pumps have motors, sometimes the motor fails, sometimes the pump fails, and the entire unit is replaced. Proper maintenance of steam traps and strainers are crucial in the long life of a vacuum pump. Heat Timer (10-30 years) The old electromechanical type were work horses, and relatively simple. Other then a motor or contact burning out, they lasted a very long time. The newer electronic type, while offering enhanced versatility and power, have not been around long enough, but if I were a betting man I would put my money on the older type as far as longevity. As an energy saving measure, Heat-Timer units should be re-calibrated by a factory rep every 5 years or so.  It must also be noted, any of the above, often last longer then I indicated, under the management of a devoted and knowledgeable superintendent. Bill Aristovulos

  Question #740: Should a co-op provide the tools necessary for a new superintendent, or should he be equipped with his own tools? Post your answer

Answer: If the building is a union building, the answer is yes. If it's a non-union building, then the building should supply tools. Most supers over the years have obtained their own tools anyway, but should they break, then the building should replace the super's tools at no charge. Supplying tools is a motivational tool in itself. Just make sure all building-supplied tools are marked with the building address, and an inventory of building tools is kept. Furthermore, if the super has his own tools, he should have an inventory of his tools kept on file. This removes any questions of whose tool is whose. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #739: I would like to move a closet wall within my apartment.  I have gotten approval, but there is a phone riser / cable to contend with.  How does one get a phone riser / cable moved about 1 1/2 feet? Post your answer

Answer: Not a quick answer. First you need to check if it is a functional riser, is it still in use? Next, who is responsible for it's maintenance, probably Verizon.  In some buildings though, it is owned by the building outright, and they are responsible for it's upkeep. Once you have ascertained it is a functional riser, you will need to get a proposal to "relocate" it. Be warned this is usually a relatively "pricey" quote! Bear in mind, that first, the technician has to establish a temporary "jumper cable" to continue service to residents above. Then he/she will have to route (including possible costly channeling in the concrete) the new cable around to the new location, establish junction boxes/points above and below, and finally splice in anywhere from 50 to 200 individual wires (depending on the cable size). This usually is in the cost range of several thousand dollars, plus. In the last dozen or so sites I have been involved with dealing with telephone and intercom riser relocation, the residents have simply opted to "box" around the cables (with a removable, service allowing enclosure). This was preferable to the cost, and one last issue, the responsibility, for any future problems that may "arise" in that "riser". Bill Aristovulos

  Question #738: I am on the Board of Directors for a 29-unit co-op in a pre-war building in Manhattan.  We have a live-in super, with who has been with us for 10 years - and would like to find the proper compensation / raise for him.  Is there a resource where I can find comparable salaries? Post your answer

Answer: There is no resource that I know of that tracks how much supers earn. Buildings vary in size and demand / work load, so its hard to establish a range or flat rate. My suggestion is to ask the management company AS WELL as see what other supers in similar buildings around you are making. Note, IF he is a good - great super, then his/her salary should also reflect it. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #737: What are the advantages and disadvantages of employing our part-time super / porter for a 21 unit building on a salary vs. an hourly rate? Although he currently has a job description and is paid a fixed salary, there is continual confusion / disagreement about what he should be doing and how much he should be working. Post your answer

Answer: The hourly rate is totally to your advantage and not to the super. However, finding a good super paid by the hour is hard, as not that many would do it. You see, paid by the hour ends up being unfair to the super in many ways. One of which is that things happen. If, lets say, he is paid for 3 hours per day, and he was interrupted due to a building issue, how would he deal with it? Would he claim extra time, or just not complete the work set for that time? Believe me, a super's job is not hour by hour. Lots of issues come up and are not included in that hour to hour rate. Unless, of course, you pay him, say $25 to $30 an hour, then it may be worth it to the super. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #736: My apartment is in a rent stabilized multiple dwelling (20 apartments, 4 on each floor) with no super. My question: Is it legal not to have an individual circuit breaker box in each apartment under NYC's law or not? The apartment has no breaker box, and the building has one in the basement (according to the management). Each time a fuse blows, I (or any tenant) have to call the office in Queens to request someone come to the building to reset the breaker. It is very tedious to go through the process. Many of the visitors to my apartment are surprised by the fact that there is no breaker box within the property, and they all say it may be illegal and I should contact NYC. Is it legal or illegal? Post your answer

Answer: No. It is not illegal. Most of the pre-war buildings were built that way due to the shortage of wiring, and the fact that electricity was mostly used for lights and very few appliances. The codes only refer to new construction and / or total rehabs. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #735: Can tenants say no thank you to window guards? Post your answer

Answer: Yes, some tenants can say no to window guards AS LONG as they do not have children under 10 years old living in the apartment or frequently visiting the apartment. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #734: I have been working for Related Management for the past year as a concierge in one of their high rise luxury buildings in NY for the past year, I have been told that this company is one of the best in NY, does anyone have anyone have any feedback on them and their policies on in-company promotion? Post your answer

Answer: I have worked with Related Management on weatherization projects for the past four years. I have had good experiences with them. They own most of their buildings, so unlike most management companies, they have a real interest in making them work. You should first talk to the district manager for your building, if there is one. If not, then you might try to contact Hector Pinero, the Director of Housing, and ask him for suggestions. He can be reached at 212-981-3525. Jeff Eichenwald

Answer: The word "best" is a relative word. I would say though, Related Management is a very good company. I do not know about now, but in the past Related had always tried to promote from within the company. I would suggest that you make your intensions known to the Director of Maintenance or whatever title they have now (as things have changed in the past 10 years or so). Best way is to try to set up an appointment to meet with him / her. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #733: Can I replace Steam Return Pipes with PVC pipes. The pipes that I have seem to be rotting away I figure that the pipes only carry hot water? Post your answer

Answer: Never use plastic piping on a steam system! Even CPVC which is rated at a higher temp/pressure than PVC should not be used. There is a chance with failed traps that steam will get into the return piping and erode the plastic. It is never ever recommended to use any plastic piping on steam systems. Joe Lambert,

  Question #732: I have 12 high sodium lights that go on and off as they please, what I should I do, change the ballast? Post your answer

Answer: Either the ballasts or the bulbs themselves, or both should be changed. Try a bulb first, if that doesn't work, try the ballast.

  Question #731: I heard the best way to get an apartment in NYC is to contact the supers. Is this true? How does one go about doing so? What steps do I follow afterwards? Post your answer

Answer: No, it's not the best way now, although it used to be. Brokers are the way to go most of the time.

  Question #730: What does CFM mean? I can't get an honest answer. Please help me. Post your answer

Answer:  CFM can stand for many things. The two CFM that apply to what we do, that I know of are: CFM when used in moving air. It is Cubic Feet per Minute. Which means the volume of air a fan moves in a minute. The other CFM is Certified Facilities Manager. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: From the technical background I come from, CFM means cubic feet per minute and it is a measure of gas or air flow. Joe Lambert,

  Question #729: I asked my super to do a little better job around the house and he went ballistic on me and threatened me. In the past we had a good relationship, should I give him a second chance or fire him right away. I like his wife and they do an okay job. I live in 16 unit building. Post your answer

Answer: I am sorry but in a way I have to disagree in part with the previous replies to this question. No matter what, a superintendent should NEVER lose his cool with anyone who lives in the building. Doesn't matter that we do not know the whole story or both sides of the story. Doesn't matter whose fault it was. While firing the super is overkill in this situation, there is a need for a disciplinary action. If this goes unchecked, it may lead to more incidents. A written warning should be issued to him. Now, EVERY employee, whether it's a super or a VP of Citibank, should have a written job description detailing to a degree what is demanded of the position. Furthermore, periodic evaluations should be given so that the employee knows if they are on track or not. I won't go on-I think you all get my point. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: By not previously mentioning whether you or you tenants were dissatisfied with his work, you led your super to believe that his work to this point was perfect. So after you gave him a false belief, you are now asking him to step it up a little bit more. In is his mind he has been giving you 110% (an OK Job). Remember that the above happened only because you failed to point out or address from the very beginning what you and your tenants expected from him and if you were not satisfied with his work, it should have not been ignored. Sit down with your super and informed him that his actions are cause for dismissal but that you will be giving him a final written warning about his behavior and threats. ( This is only if this was his first time and indeed you previously had a good relationship with him). Then point out exactly the improvements that you are expecting of him. You said that in the past you had a good relationship with him. If this was his first outburst probably there were other things on his mind that eventually, at the time of your approach, made him explode. We all know that we must leave our personal problem at home, but not everyone is capable of doing so. This is just an observation according to the information written in your question.

Answer: You should not only NOT fire him, you should apologize and give him a raise and make it clear to him that in the future you will try harder to be sensitive to his needs. Clueless landlords and tenants often demand more, on an ongoing basis, of a lone super, without giving him the tools to meet those demands, than he or she is able to give. There are many ways to make demands - verbally being the easiest to take. How can you successfully dispute an unspoken, yet quite obvious, demand? Talk to him more, maybe set up a monthly meeting with him, let him know that he should verbalize to you what he needs in order to do a good job for you. Most people are more than willing to do what is asked of them, if given the tools and made to feel needed, appreciated and wanted. Yes, even supers.

  Question #728: I would like to sell my 3 family home.  How can I go about legally asking the tenants to move? One apartment has a lease which is almost up and the other has a month-to-month tenant? Post your answer

Answer: If you intend to sell your house, pick your broker. The broker has the answer to your questions. Dick Koral

  Question #727: Is there a NYC rule or regulation that mandates revolving door maintenance, and if so then what is the rule number? Post your answer

Answer: Yes, there is a code that requires all revolving doors to be inspected and certified twice a year. It is either an Administration Law /code or a BOCA Code. What the exact code numbers are, I do not know. If you wish to hire a firm that can inspect and send in the certification you can call: Roger Soucek, VP at Mac Kenzie Group. 212 227 1630 ex 347. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #726: I live in New York. Where can my husband go to take standpipe and sprinkler certification classes?  Also are these classes offered in Spanish, if so where (he does not belong to any union for supers)? Post your answer

Answer: Research the questions and answers on the Frequently Asked Questions page and on the Licenses, Exams & Certificates of Fitness page. Your question will probably have been answered there already in the past.

  Question #725: Will there be a strike of 32BJ in April.  What are your thoughts? Post your answer

Answer: It seems that there will be a strike. The sides are far apart at this point and the unions and RAB do not seem to be budging in the negotiations. If I were a betting person I would not bet against it and begin to prepare for a strike. Alice Rossini

Answer: See this blog for yet another view.

Answer: To know the answer to this question would mean to know the future. We will know if there will be a strike one hour after the deadline/contract end. This is how it has always been for over 40 years. No one knows, and if they say they do, most probably they are guessing. The facts as of last week are that both sides very far apart. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: In my own humble opinion, both sides of the table have something to prove. Spurred on by the transit situation, the owners/co-ops feel they can leverage some "givebacks" while the union feels even more galvanized to push harder and further. Again, all this is my own opinion, however my advice to you, if you are a union worker that might go on strike, put some spare cash aside NOW. A long strike unfortunately will be felt in the workers pockets a bit more profoundly, whereas the owners/co-ops regrettably tend to have deeper pockets. Bill Aristovulos    

  Question #724: How can I get information on a building managing company? I am interviewing for a position with Hoffman Management and would like to know a little more about the company and some of their buildings and cannot find any information by searching the web. Does anyone have any info? Post your answer

Answer: Hoffman is a small to midsize management company. They have been around for over 25 years. I have heard NO bad news about them, therefore I think they are a good company. I met Mr. Hoffman about 18 yrs ago, and from what I remember he was a good manager. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #723: I live in an 80 year old upper Westside co-op building of 38 units. Although the building is well taken care of, the Board of Directors is about to snake out the waste lines in order to allow for the use of dishwashers. We have had opinions on both sides about this issue and but would like your opinion as to risks involved. It seems to me that trying to remove the scale of 80 years within these pipes might very well cause leaks and full fledged breaks. What is your opinion? Post your answer

Answer: A dishwasher in an apartment is a great sales incentive and increases the value of the property, so yes, snaking COULD cause leaks and full fledged breaks but it may be worth it. Of course anything can happen. The vibration from the snaking machine alone inside the pipes could aggravate weaknesses in some 80 year old pipes. Proper venting is very important also, especially when expecting an increase in volume that comes from using additional appliances, so make sure that is looked at as well as making sure the existing vents are not at all clogged. Weighing the pros and cons properly may well show that the benefits exceed the risks. Make sure that everyone who will participate in making the decision understands both sides. Also that it is spelled out who will be paying for damages, should they occur. Glen Stoltz

Answer:  It is my opinion that the snaking of the pipes to remove scale and such should be done every ten years or so, as a good preventive measure. To do this after so many years may cause leaks, not because the snaking would cause damage to pipes, but rather the removing of the build up would expose old cracks or weakened points, that the build up protected. More of a concern should be that the pipes were not originally designed to carry this extra load and backing up of suds and water may occur in some lower apartments from the drain lines, again MAY OCCUR. You can't stop progress. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #722: I own a co-op in Manhattan and recently I was removing the carpet from all the floors in my apartment. The super told me that by New York city law all the apartments must be 75% covered with carpet. Is this correct? Post your answer

Answer: No, he is wrong. It is not a state or city code or requirement. However, in most leases, including co-ops and condos; there is a provision that would state that up to 80% of the space be carpeted. This does not include kitchens, baths, hallways or closets. Check you lease or the building bylaws. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #721: I live in an apartment building co-op and would like to cover the steam riser pipe in my bathroom, what can I use? Post your answer

Answer: Read the answer to Question #653, a similar question. Glen Stoltz

  Question #720: Where can I get information to obtain a certification for a torch? And the proper name of the exam. Post your answer

Answer: I assume you are referring to the new York City Fire Departments Certificate of Fitness G-95. If that is what you are referring to, please go here for study material for the G-95. You can also navigate the NYFD's site for other certificates if the G-95 was not what you had in mind. Bill Aristovulos

  Question #719: I am in the process of having LL11 (Local Law 11) work carried out. This includes removing the railings around my roof area. Knowing that the roof space should be accessible for emergency fire egress, will I be committing a violation if I lock the doors with padlocks in addition to the panic bar Detex units. Or does anyone know a solution to prevent residents being able to gain access to the roof space by pushing the panic bar. Post your answer

Answer: Failure to provide access to the roof is a hazard if there is a fire. Create a not so easy to remove barrier with signage short of the roof door, is my best idea. Dick Koral

Answer: Not just a hazard, but also a VIOLATION. It is a Fire Dept. and HPD violations. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #718: Should the blower on a Jenn-Air downdraft range be degreased? Does the blower have to be removed?  Mine is slow to start working but runs well after it gets started off to a very slow start.  How would you do this? Post your answer

Answer: Please see question #710 below. By their purpose, I would think the fan blades would need regular degreasing.  Going further, I also think the blower motor itself might need servicing, possibly lubricating the blower motor would help, otherwise you might need to replace the motor itself. Bill Aristovulos

  Question #717: It is my opinion as an active board member for 6 years that management companies are not as professional or competent as they claim to be. Would you agree with that assessment? In my opinion, they are hired to manage all aspects of a property including the physical (building maintenance / operation), the financial (maintenance collection, arrearages, financial reporting), the personal (resident issue resolution, transfers, moves, renovations, and administrative functions. This is what they are paid for. However, it is my experience that the management companies of our property have NEVER done all these things well.  In fact sometimes they did not do these things at all. What is the issue in this industry? Post your answer

Answer: Not ALL management companies are as incompetent as yours. Ask other buildings about their experiences with specific companies. Eventually, you will find a good one. Dick Koral

Answer: It has been my observation for a co-op to function successfully, a trilogy must be formed. This said trilogy should be comprised of three separate and equally important segments or divisions.  The first should be the Co-Op board, and with this I mean the ENTIRE Co-Op board, not just the president or some strong arming single member. The second should be the Management company. And last, but not least, the Superintendent. IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE, THAT ALL THREE SEGMENTS HAVE SHOULD HAVE EQUAL INVOLVEMENT. All too often, this three-way balance is not maintained, and Co-Ops fall apart. In short, think of a Co-Op as a ship. The board indicates the port they wish to go to, the management lays out the itinerary, and the super steers the ship to the port of call. All to often the "board" involves itself as to what should be on the menu in the dinning hall (Management's job) or will loom over the "Superintendent" and ask "are you SURE you are steering this "ship" in the right way". Yes, the managing company or the superintendent have their flaws also. But it must be said, that of the three, clearly the management company and the superintendent have the most experience in running buildings. This is fair, since most voluntary Co-Op board members may have great experience in other fields, but tend to have little experience in the running of a building. Yet many Co-Op boards micro-manage or even meddle in the day to day building operations, clearly a Management company and Superintendent areas of the trilogy.

My question to you is, honestly, did your co-op board give your various management companies the ability to function, or did your co-op board micro-mange or downright meddle in the day to day running of the building, thereby crippling the management company's ability to function properly. Bill Aristovulos

Answer: The above answers are from experience. I have worked with good and bad management companies, as I have with good and bad boards. Whenever I hear a critique from a resident, I always recommend that they become a board member and make changes. Barry

  Question #716: Is a landlord allowed to control if we have our windows open or not? It's very hot in our apartment, well above 90 degrees. The reason is because the heating system does not work properly. Heats when it's warm out - does not heat when it's cold. The landlord is very aware of this problem and that is why he's trying to prevent us from opening our windows. He's even gone as far as coming over when we're sleeping, to tell us to shut our windows. The thermostat obviously does not work, so if it's cold or hot the radiator will still be running. The landlord does not seem in any hurry to fix it because he is trying to sell the apartment building. From what other tenants have told me this happened last year too. Post your answer

Answer:  The landlord is obviously guilty of harassment, which is illegal. Complain to NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and if you do not get action, go to your neighborhood councilperson or community organization. Dick Koral


Question #715: My thermostat is set for 70 degrees and tenants open windows shortly after that, allowing my energy to fly out the window because it gets extremely hot, so I drop the degrees to 69, then they complain that it doesn't kick on. The thermometer in the hallway almost always reads 72-75 degrees and there is a sensor in the 2nd floor of the building to command the thermostat to allow the boiler to go on when required. If the building temperature is 72-75 and the boiler does not kick on, must I go put it on manually and provide tenants with heat? Just trying to do what is right and at the same time avoiding heating complaints, not to mention that I'm fed up with phone calls regarding the same issue over and over again. Post your answer

Answer: You have not given enough specifics to really address and solve your problem. In larger buildings the heating system is not controlled by a thermostat specifically because of the problems you are having... i.e.   the thermostat does not really measure what needs to be controlled. Rather, the heat output is controlled by the OUTSIDE temperature, and then tweaked to your buildings actual needs. You may need t his type of control in your building. Joe Lambert,  

Answer: Your heating distribution system is obviously not working properly. You need professional help. I suggest you seek help from Association for Energy Affordability ( a non-profit agency that addresses these problems. Dick Koral


Question #714: I recently bought a sponsor unit in a co-op in Manhattan. I'd like to open a door in one of the walls inside the apartment. Do I need a permit for that ? Post your answer

Answer: The answer is yes, though some people don't bother to get one. What is far more important, are some questions that need to be answered; Is it a bearing wall you are cutting into (you certainly don't want to make the newspapers with a building collapse - rare, but it happens)? What about utilities that might be running through the walls (water, electrical, gas, intercom, phone, etc.)? All these issues, and others have to be properly addressed. My final advice, hire an architect, let him or her assess the physical aspects of your project, obtain the proper permits, and communicate with your co-op board / management / superintendent with the scope of your project. Bill Aristovulos


Question #713: What happens when using metal nails with copper valleys? Post your answer

Answer: Since these last three questions (713, 712, 711) are referring to roofing techniques, I assume we are talking about roofing copper valleys. The metal nails you refer would work fine, if the metal they were made of was copper. However problems arise when using steel nails on copper sheeting or flashing. The steel nails and copper actually combine to form an electrical "battery" of sorts. The moisture in the air adds the final ingredient, pretty soon the nails corrode due to a process called dielectric corrosion. The corroded nails eventually lead to physical roofing failure and leaks. Therefore, the only type of nails one should use on copper valleys, are copper nails or the new and exciting plastic composite nails. Bill Aristovulos

  Question #712: How many inches of overlap must you overlap on end point of felt paper when roofing? Post your answer

Answer: You should overlap felt paper at least 4", more, if it is a flat roof. Bill Aristovulos


Question #711: What is BUR? Post your answer

Answer: BUR, in the roofing industry, stands for Built Up Roofing, which is a basically a technique of using different layers of overlapping and overlaid materials to create a waterproof roofing system. The materials and techniques used vary. Bill Aristovulos 


Question #710: I received a Jenn-Air Gas Stove top (downdraft) from a family friend. The installation instructions I was given did not have any information about the duct requirements or how to vent it.  Can you please assist me?  Thank you. Post your answer

Answer: Jenn-Air appliances are sold, installed and serviced by Sears. Call Sears at 877-830-9177 to ask about installation of your specific product, or stop by a local Sears appliance store to inquire. Also, there is a little information on Sears' website (here) to get you started. Glen Stoltz

  Question #709: I would like to know how often you have to flush your boiler in the summer. Also, why am I getting yellow colored water from the drain pipe? Post your answer

Answer: You did not give enough information on your boiler to give you a proper answer. The yellow color, however, is most likely rust from the piping. Some is normal, a lot is not good. For a big boiler, talk to your chemical guy, for a small residential boiler they do make some chemicals you can put into the boiler but most just live with it. Joe Lambert,

  Question #708: Sprinkler systems can have a water motor gong, an electric bell, a horn or siren utilized as an alerting device. Legally, which of these devices are for use in an approved installation? Post your answer

Answer: ALL three that you mentioned are fine. If you have an existing device, you can change to a different one, e.g., mechanical gong to a electric horn, but you must have the licensed plumber file the job and wait for approval. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #707: Can somebody provide some names of schools or courses for property management. I'm currently a superintendent but looking forward to work as a property manager. Post your answer

Answer: NYU has courses. Also two real estate management associations have classes, as well as certifications for property managers: IREM and NYARM. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #706: I have a follow up to question 408 that was posted. I also live in a prewar building with another tenant above me. I hear EVERYTHING they do. I hear TV, stereo, walking, vacuums, moving, bodily functions, door slams, talking, etc. It is very loud at all times of day and night. Their apt is mostly carpeting with padding. What can I do to make them shut up? What can be done so that I don't hear every move, step, and word they say. Carpet and padding doesn't seem to work. Post your answer

Answer: Acoustic problems are usually the most difficult to solve. The tenant upstairs seems to be OK, since his/her floor is carpeted and padded. You really need an acoustical engineers. Search the Yellow Pages for one. Dick Koral

  Question #705: Is there anyone that can help out with the dos and don'ts of writing a resume. My understanding is that the standard is a one-page resume. I'm sure I speak for many superintendents when I say that it is almost impossible to submit all of my qualifications and experience on one page. Any referrals would be greatly appreciated. Post your answer

Answer: Too bad you missed our January meeting, it was 3 hours on resumes and interviewing. Get a good book; try Resumes For Dummies by Joyce Kennedy. Peter Grech, GBOC

  Question #704:  Our super is not fully qualified to maintain our heating plant, although he has the required licenses.  Are companies usually employed to maintain the entire heating plant including boiler, burner, oil tank, pumps etc. Would this be one company or many different companies? Post your answer

Answer: First of all, lets get it straight: supers are not usually required to repair boilers, pumps etc. A super's job is to operate and perform preventive maintenance. He/she can troubleshoot simple things such as blown fuses, breakers, loose wiring etc. Honestly, most supers don't have access to boiler/burner parts. Furthermore, it may be a breech of your insurance policy. I don't think there is any super in NYC who can rewire a pump motor or any electric motor. So, perhaps he is performing his/her duties in a limited way due to many factors, one being it isn't his responsibility to repair, but rather see that it gets repaired. Example, to repair an oil tank, that would require professional contractor, as the EPA and other city agencies that are involved. No super can repair an oil tank. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: Although some companies say they can maintain the entire system, it often takes two to three specialty companies to do the job right. The boiler guy is very good with oil tanks, oil pumps, and burners. The steam specialist would then take over controlling the heat in the building, and do piping and steam fitting jobs. A third company may be involved with water pumps and plumbing items. Joe Lambert,

Answer: You're not giving enough information to allow a really informed answer. How do you know he doesn't know what he's doing if, as you say, he has the required licenses? If he needs to learn more to do a better job, there are good short courses to take that will help a super brush up on many skills. Usually it is in the super's job description to keep an eye on the heating system for day-to-day operations, and normally there is a maintenance company/boiler mechanic company on contract to take care of long term maintenance and upkeep. Glen Stoltz


Question #703: Where and how do I apply for a boiler operating license in Queens? Post your answer

Answer: Currently, there are 2 "licenses' you need to obtain for operating a boiler in the New York City Area: 

1)  The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) certificate of fitness for operating a low pressure boiler (15 PSI and below). The license category is P-99. You only need this license to operate a boiler if you are burning #6 fuel oil. To get the actual license, you need the study material from the (FDNY) which I’ve included here. and then you have to pay a 25 dollar fee and bring a letter from your employer stating you work at your building. In which after, you have to pass a test of 20 questions at Metro 9 in Brooklyn. The following is more helpful information about the test.


2)  Certificate of Instruction for the Operation of Residual Fuel Oil Burners and Incinerators from the Department of Environmental Protection. (DEP) You need this license to operate any boiler in New York City that is burning any number fuel oil. To get this license, you have to attend a class through either The Thomas Shortman Training Fund, if you are a union member of 32BJ or ACI Environmental (212-279-6804). But also note: The course is given free at a number of high schools. Go to the DEP web site to find out when and where.


     Of course, we at the Superintendents Technical Association, STA, also give seminars on how to obtain the P-99, keep checking the website for future dates. Jason Panarella


Question #702: Can you recommend a source of tenant-friendly, property line, trash and recyclables bins suitable for a Manhattan multiple dwelling? Post your answer

Answer: Several of our distinguished vendor members should carry a complete line of suitable containers. Borut Supply and Kew Forrest Maintenance Supply, can both be found in our wildly popular monthly newsletter, SUPER!  Also your building's janitorial supply vendor should carry a line of products. Ask your superintendent for the vendors name. Lastly "Google it!"  Recycling Containers, and you should find lots of vendors. Bill Aristovulos

Answer: Try Every Supply Company, Inc. When you call ask for Nick or Dino. Glen


Question #701: I am a member of the Board of Directors for a 315 unit Co-op in Queens. Our super is given an apartment with expenses paid but is NOT residing in the apartment.  He spends evenings and weekends at the home he owns. On occasion, we have had "maintenance emergencies" which required us to page him or call his cell phone but did not receive a response back. Shareholders are starting to complain to the Board about this. Is the super required to be on call for emergencies if he is given an apartment to live in, and is the Co-op in compliance with the Multiple Dwelling Law if the super is not technically living in the apartment provided on the premises? Post your answer

Answer: First of all, both city and state codes state that a building of your size must have the super living at the building or within 200 feet. Secondly, supers are on call 24/7 for emergencies only. Keep in mind that the free apartment is a trade off for what would be a much higher salary and for your building to meet the codes. Not sure if you are a union building or not. Without knowing more facts, I cannot recommend any disciplinary action. I would however suggest a meeting between the board, managing agent and super to work out the rules. Email me if you have any questions. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: Of course your super is supposed to be able to respond to emergencies 24/7. Frankly, I think it is naive boards like yours that are part of the problem. Dick Koral

Answer: You do not mention if the superintendent gets a salary, you only mention an apartment and expenses.  If those are the only things he is receiving, then I am sorry to say, he is only a part time super, and does not have to be there in the evenings. Bill Aristovulos


Question #700: I live in an apartment in Port Henry, NY. My breaker box does not include my kitchen area. I do not have a master shut off switch. I have 8 breakers in the box. Is the set-up of this electrical system up to code? My concern is, if something catches fire in the kitchen, I have no way to turnoff the power source to the kitchen. Post your answer

Answer:  I have no idea what the law is in your community. What you describe sounds like a blatant violation of state law. Talk to your county authorities. Dick Koral