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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
 
  Questions For Supers - 900 to 949  
 

 

last update on Sunday August 22, 2010 09:24 AM PT

 
 

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

 
 

 

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  last update on Sunday August 22, 2010 09:24 AM PT

Fair Use Disclaimer

 
   
 
 

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.

These pages try to respond to all questions posed. Nevertheless, questions pertaining to unions are best asked of your delegate. STA is a not-for-profit organization formed to help all maintenance workers in multifamily buildings.

As such, we are NOT union affiliated. Our answers to questions are based on our past experiences as individuals (whether union and not) and are our OPINIONS.

We are not labor attorneys. Therefore our answers may not be the same answers that you would get from your union. As always you should discuss your union-related questions with your delegate, regardless of our answers and comments.

 
 
 
QUESTIONS POSTED

Post Your Question Here

 

 
  Question #949: Can you please tell me if there is a way to check on a building employee as to whether or not he belongs to the 32BJ  workers union. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment The payroll department can check this out. They would only need a social security number. Non-payroll personnel may have a hard time. You can also find out what district he is in and call his delegate, although now delegates, and districts, are all changing. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
 
Question #948:  How do you join a union? Post your answer or comment

Answer/CommentFor 32BJ residential Manhattan contract you simply need to work at a union building; after 30 days you MUST join the union. You can work either part time or full time, it doesn't matter, you still have to join. Just go down to 6th Avenue at Canal street with a pay stub and join up.

Answer/Comment That depends on which union. For Local 32BJ and Local 94 you must first get a union position, in a building with a union contract, then within 90 days become a member provided that you are a full-time worker -- not a temp. You should ask your employer before joining. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #947: I'm in a new building and have no benefits because there is no board. Can I negotiate a benefits package once the board is formed? Any suggestions on how to negotiate? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment:

 

 
 
Question #946: At the risk of over-diagnosing, this should be the last installment on this topic from question #934.  Most recently it has been discovered that the water going into the cold water side of the mixer is very hot; this is a combination of street cold water and circulating return... should not be hot. Since the original problem has been inconsistent fluctuation in temperature, could this be caused by a mixer that has been compromised by hot mixing with hot (as described above), to be rectified by rerouting the thermal loop? We will also rebuild the mixer since the thermometer has probably been damaged. What I can't figure is how this problem would arise seemingly on it's own. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment:

 

 
  Question #945: I am applying for jobs in New Jersey, I work in New York City. I notice some jobs are looking for black seal (boilers). Do the licenses I have for NYC cover the black seal? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Although they are similar in many ways, having your required New York City license(s) will not get you a job doing comparable work in New Jersey. You will still have to sit for, and pass, the exam to get the Black Seal license which will allow you to operate the specified equipment. Glen Stoltz

 
  Question #944: I am a maintenance supervisor for a management company in southern New Jersey. Can you tell me where I can obtain training for a black seal license in my area? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: See the answer to question #489, and other questions and answers on the Licenses, Exams & Certificates of Fitness page. Also Google "black seal certification" or "black seal training" for lots of information.

 
  Question #943:  I am in a new condo with less than 60 units and about 80% occupied. How soon can a board be elected? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Read your offering plan and other official paperwork provided to you when you bought your unit. It's all spelled out there.

 
  Question #942: Continuing from question #934: between cleaning and pressure testing existing coil and replacing with new, what are the pros and cons with respect to downtime, expense, and longevity. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: There is no comparison to cleaning old coils and installing new coils when it comes to longevity. Obviously, new coils will last longer assuming you install exactly the same coil. As far as performance, clean coils work about the same as new coils. To pull out coils and send them out to be repaired takes one day. That is, they go out in the morning and come back in the afternoon. New coils have to be made. If the old coils have the information on them, then they can be prefabbed, removed, and installed in one day. Otherwise it will take two to three days of down time. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #941: I've been a Super over 20 years. My certificate of fitness expired many years ago and I can't find it. Do I have to take the test again? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Yes. Even if you didn't lose it, once it's expired and the grace period has passed, certificate holders have to retake the tests. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
 
Question #940: Do I need a driver's license to apply for a superintendent position? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: NO. Some positions will state that a drivers license is needed, but 99% of all super's jobs do not need a driver's license. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer/Comment: In most cases, no, at least in Manhattan, but still a good skill to have. Inside or outside of Manhattan it can be an item on your resume as part of your skills and experience, and may help you land a job that you would otherwise give up to another candidate who has it. Glen Stoltz

 
  Question #939: I accepted a super's position where I was told by the manager that my hours are 8am-4pm and my comp would be an hourly rate. A week later, when I found myself working past 7 pm and sometimes relieving the concierge during his dinner hour, I asked about overtime. The same manager told me that I am on salary and get no overtime, that the free apartment is part of my comp. Is this true or is it a violation of Labor Law? Post your answer or comment

I have given your issue much thought. First, I assume you are non-union. Secondly, I assume too that you did not get any terms or conditions in writing at the time you were hired. It is a gray area whether or not labor laws were broken. What constitutes salary as opposed to hourly in our business is not clear-cut due to the apartment. I personally would not stay there, and look for another job. From what you have typed it would seem that the management company is not interested in protecting you. Management should fight for a super. There are many garbage managing agents and companies, but there are even more great companies out there. Get out while you can, is my opinion. While I do not know your situation, if it was me I would get out. Let me tell you why: Legal or not, if they went back on their word now, they will go back on their word whenever they want to. Thus, how can you trust them going forward. I believe you will just become more unhappy as time goes by. Why would you want to fight for something this soon after starting a job? Get my point? Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer/Comment: If you need union rep. call me 631-559-5045 Sam Gonzalez

Answer/Comment: As to whether or not it's a violation of labor law, you could check with the US Department of Labor with the specifics of your situation. If you have something in writing between you and management, who knows, you may have a case. If it's your word against theirs (with little or no proof in your favor) your case becomes much more dicey.

 
  Question #938:  Second request for an answer: Vacuum systems for boilers: does anyone have an opinion good or bad on Liquid Ring Vacuum systems as opposed to "hurling tank" vacuum systems?  Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment:

 

 
 

Question #937: I know this subject has been discussed a year ago, I just stumbled upon it. My HPD building wants me to get rid of the "super" we have, stating he's not "licensed." I researched the info you provided and was told it refers to a janitor, not a porter or super. Apparently there is a porter & superintendent contract detailing the requirements which cannot be found anywhere on the NYC.gov/hpd site. Trust me I've searched for at least 3 hours before giving up. The super we have is great and did complete 3 modules given by HPD which met the 80 hours requirement. Is HPD giving me the run-around trying to dictate to my tenant association? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: The term janitor is [interchangeable] the same as porter or super. Janitor was the old title given to a person who was in charge of a building on a daily basis. In time the title evolved into superintendent. Now it is evolving again to resident manager. So when the city or HPD says janitor it's porter or super. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
 
Question #936: I live in a Queen's Condo.  I have a noise problem of my lower floor neighbor who sometimes played very loud music until 1:00 am.  I talked to my live-in super. I didn't feel he will talk to this neighbor except I can send an official letter to management for this neighbor about his noise issue. The super asked me for 3 copies of the letter, one is for the talent, one is for the board, one is for his attorney.  Is this the right way to file a noise complaint? I think it should be to ask the super to handle it. Also, he said it's possible to call 911 for that and he doesn't need to be told. Is it true? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Noise complaints are one of the largest complaints in co-op/condo living. While I do not know your buildings policy I find it hard to believe that what the super told you is correct. Send a letter of complaint to the management office. Begin a log of times, dates and type of noise. The letter that is sent to management should be presented to the board. So do ask the management to present this problem to the board. It is a board problem and not yours. Yes you can call 911 or 311 with noise complaints. It is a quality of life issue. Let me know how it goes. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #935:  I have an apartment in Brooklyn. I would like to install a window A/C in the bedroom. The super doesn't want to do the job because of the liabilities involved. There is no existing sleeve. Do you know where I can obtain the regulations or building codes on how window units need to be secured in New York City? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: The information is on the Department of Buildings website. Go to the home page and type in "window air conditioner installation tips". http://home2.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/pdf/ac_tips.pdf  Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #934: Have domestic hot water deficiencies. At first would have too hot for most times, then decreasing hot water at peak usage times. Rebuilt most suspect mixer part (thermometer), made adjustments, initially OK. Hot water now is no longer scalding, however is quite inconsistent.  Have been diagnosed by a professional as follows: undersized piping and insufficient thermal loop configuration (27" minimum).  It was also recommended we install a check valve and "t" with a hose cock at the circulating pump.  How does this sound:  finances require we spend effectively but frugally. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: If you had a professional come out and actually troubleshoot your system and also look at all of the variables associated with hot water production, would not this answer be better than a few sketchy facts on a bulletin board? One thing to check is the capacity of the hot water system, doing a new fixture count, maybe there have been some renovations adding high capacity fixtures or new appliances in the building that are using hot water and causing a production deficit. Joe Lambert, Leonard Powers Inc.

Comment from original poster: Appreciate the response. One advantage of the STA question/answer board is getting multiple objective opinions until trust is built with any service company. Most recently have been advised to clean HW coils, change HW coils, and repipe connections between our twin Weil-Mclain EGH-95 boilers. The one almost always used has two coils while the other has one; this condition has existed over twenty years with little problem.

 
 
Question #933: I am the superintendent of a building in mid-town New York City. I have been told by my plumber that I need sprinklers in the laundry room because I have more that three dryers. Is this true? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Yes this is true. Gas dryers require sprinklers. The sprinkler's water supply can be taken off the laundry room cold water supply. Don't forget that you also need a carbon monoxide detector. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #932: I lived in the Bronx all my life, and I'd like to know, if I am only a trainee in New York City, would it be easy to hunt for a superintendent job elsewhere, for instance; New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, or Pennsylvania? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment It's hard to say, and probably depends on where and when you try job-hunting elsewhere. Most of what you need to learn to be a good super can be picked up as a trainee. Management may not be one of those things that you can quickly pickup as a trainee, in many instances, but most everything else, yes. It's possible that in some areas and for some management companies, the standards are, if not lower, at least a bit different, giving allowance for those with less experience. Go for it and try it out. Glen Stoltz

 
 
Question #931: Is it mandatory for a doorman to work an additional shift if his relief doesn't show up to work? What if you have other personal responsibilities? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: It's part of the job that's understood by all, that you cannot leave your post until your relief arrives. So if your relief doesn't arrive - or is merely late, do you really have a choice at the moment? If you have other responsibilities it's your responsibility to call and make alternate arrangements as soon as you know your relief will be late. Now, all the preceding does not negate the fact that, as a door person, you and all the door personnel you work with have a great responsibility to each other -- not to mention to your employer to give an honest day's work -- to be on time and ready to work when you arrive. It is very disrespectful and self-centered to arrive late constantly on any job - for whatever reason. But it's even more disrespectful, thoughtless and selfish of others' time when the person you are to relieve cannot leave their post until you arrive. Punctuality is even more important is such a job as in many others. Glen Stoltz

 
 
Question #930: We are in a pre-war co-op building in Brooklyn with 50 apartments; our board is interested in finding out whether the City or any other organization provides free maintenance assessments (such as the type provided by Rand)?  Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: I am not familiar with Rand services or exactly what you are asking for. If you like please email me directly and I will see what I can find out. Peter Grech, GBOC Pgrech4214@aol.com

 
  Question #929: I hold a NYC refrigeration license unlimited tonnage, among an assortment of other licenses and certifications issued by the FDNY... there's an operator who's unlicensed and has no clue of anything in the plant or facility. He's a personal friend of the chief engineer. All engineers on the job are hearing that the unlicensed individual can piggyback off our licenses. Please explain how can this be. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: I am aware that the chief can piggy-back off the watch engineers as the chief does not touch the machines. However, any person who does touch the machine has to have his own license. This question may be better asked of your union or the Fire Department. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #928: I live in a 11 story condominium in Ketchikan, Alaska. The Maintenance man turned off the main water value to the building. When he turned it back on I noticed a tremendous amount of pressure when turning the water on in another condo on the 11th floor. It caused a pipe to burst under the kitchen sink in my condo on the 9th floor which I wasn't living in. Apparently the hot water went everywhere (at least running for 36 hours) and drained down into the other 2 units below me (8th & 7th floor). Extensive damage - now the maintenance man is saying it's my fault and that I need to pay for all the damage that it caused. There was no notice that he was turning off the main value and no plan in place. They might be other units in the building with burst pipes, but until someone reports it, it doesn't get noticed. A lot of owners here live in the lower 48 and their units are empty most of the time. Am I really liable? Do I have any rights ~ currently the carpet man is drying all three units, but there is ceiling damage in the two units along with dry cleaning, carpet washing, etc. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: I am not familiar with Alaskan co-op/condos. The answer may lie in the offering plan. There are times when the water must be shut off without notice. You need to find out if the water shut off was an emergency or not. If no emergency existed then there should have been at least 24 hours notice. Most co-ops and condos make repairs to plumbing outside of the walls the responsibility of the owner. (such as in this case). Pipes inside the walls are the corporation's responsibility. However, if negligence was a factor then you have a right to protest. Lastly your home owners insurance will cover the leak. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #927: I live in an 18 unit apartment building in NYS. I locked myself out of my apartment the other night. My son who was with me has a key and my super who lives about 30 minutes away has the other spare key. He was not concerned with coming down to my city to let me in. I had to call a locksmith and pay $130.00. Is this the law? Could the super live so far away and not be responsible for letting me in my apartment? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: There are two issues here. First, The keys kept with a superintendent or landlord are for emergency use only. Emergencies are: fire, flood, gas leaks and any water leaks. Resident lockouts do not constitute an emergency. A lot of buildings charge residents for lockouts if the super has to be called during his off-duty time. Issue Two: NYS Multiple Dwelling Law "Article 3, Title 3 #83 states that the super/janitor or whoever is responsible for the dwelling has to reside within 200 feet of the property that he or she is responsible for. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer/Comment: Your question poses too many variable answers, and too little information to give you concrete answers.  For starters I am not all too familiar with New York State Housing Code [Multiple Dwelling Law]. Your best bet is to call the housing department for YOUR CITY, to confirm the occupancy / distance superintendent must live from building requirements. Moving on, it is safe to assume the lock was functional, and you made the unfortunate mistake of locking yourself out. A lockout does not constitute an emergency situation, since lock was not broken. A true emergency is something almost all supers are universally required to respond to. Also what are the requirements of the owner of the property? Would the owner reimburse the super for an off-duty, non-emergency response?  I am sorry to say, you made the mistake and corrected it by calling a locksmith. By the way, consider yourself lucky, in Manhattan, lockouts cost $200-$450, depending on time of day!

 
 

Question #926: I live in a HPD building. Our coordinator is demanding that we get rid of our super and look for a licensed super. The current super is enrolled in certification class. Can we still be fined? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Your coordinator should have known the rules. The rules state a certified competent super. Which means that the super is required to have either 14 hrs or so of courses related to building operations and safety or hold an HPD-certified Superintendent Certificate. The rule also says, that the owner of the building may provide in writing saying that he certifies his super as competent. Without one of the above HPD can issue a violation and maybe fine. While rumors have it that HPD will be enforcing this rule, they have not started enforcing it yet to the best of my knowledge. Providing proof that the super is in classes for this certification may satisfy HPD. Your coordinator could be using this rule to get rid of your super for whatever reason he or she may have. Make sure the super has proof of class attendance - he needs to get a letter from HPD saying he is attending their classes and have at ready any certificates he has from HPD thus far as proof. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #925: If I have a pet for one year can the super tell me to get rid of it just like that? What if I had it before the new owner took over? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: The super can tell you whatever he wants. For that matter so can the new owner. However, for what is legal you need to refer to your lease. If your lease says no pets permitted, then you broke your lease. Now the courts in the past have granted waiver of the lease that says no pets permitted, if the tenant owned the pet for over 6 or more months (an approximate time) and the building staff along with the super saw you with the pet and NEVER said a word to you about the pet. The super (who is also an agent for the owner) seeing the pet very soon after you obtained it he had the duty to tell you about the clause in your lease. If he didn't say a word and saw you often with the pet, in essence he granted you permission. Now, its not that easy, as you did break your lease (IF the lease specifies no pets) and the courts may or may not agree. You should ask an attorney this question. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
 
Question #924: We live on the top floor of a pre-war building in New York City.  We have steam riser in our kitchen that no longer has the return pipe seen in closed systems, but now has a steam valve.  The steam escaping from this valve is very smelly.  Is there any way to  fix or lessen this problem? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: This is simple. The valve you are referring to is an air vent. It is designed to let air out of the riser as the steam expands into the riser. When the air vent is heated by the steam it closes. For whatever reason your air vent is failing to close completely. Replace the air vent and you solve your problem (assuming that what you are describing is an air vent). Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #923: How to detect and locate leaks inside apartment walls from HOT WATER (hydronic) copper pipes (no discernible water marks on exterior of apartment wall surface)? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: There is no sure way that I know of to find the leaks in a hyrodronic system better than any other system leak. That is, find water and trace it to the source. That you do have a leak, however, can be determined (when you can't spot an actual leak) if water is added to your system on a constant basis. A closed hydronic system requires extremely little or no new water. So if you system is constantly adding water, you have a leak somewhere. John

 
  Question #922: I would like to know where I can take electrician classes and receive a certificate? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: www.AmericanTrainco.com. Excellent hands-on training with certificate at the end. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
 

Question #921: Vacuum systems for boilers: does anyone have an opinion good or bad on Liquid Ring Vacuum systems as opposed to "hurling tank" vacuum systems? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment:


 

 
  Question #920: In my rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan, we have "sleeve" air conditioners. For years, during heavy rainstorms water has come in through my bedroom A/C. I now have a plastic cover over the top and sides of the unit, but water comes out of the bottom. What could be the cause? The A/C no longer works. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: The cause can be one or a combination of things. The sleeve may not be pitched towards the exterior. The sleeve may be rusted and have holes in it. The exterior area around the sleeve may have gaps or the caulking has failed. You need to get this issue repaired. Constant presence of water will lead to mold. Mold is not a good thing to have. If you are rent stabilized then send letter to landlord or managing agent informing them of the leak. Failure to do so may be a breech of your responsibility. If they fail to repair, then file with HPD. Mold is not an issue to take lightly. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #919:  In a rental apartment building in Manhattan, the landlord replaced our mailboxes, and kept a copy of every tenant's  mailbox key. Is this usual? If not, where should I go to complain? I'm not comfortable with their having access to my mail. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Answer verbatim from the USPS website:

You need to verify whether or not the mailboxes at your apartment are owned and maintained by the United States Postal Service®. Such boxes should have the picture of the Postal ServiceTM  Eagle or a statement similar to "Property of United States Postal Service" on the side.

For only those boxes that are maintained by the USPS®:

  • Please call you local Post Office™ facility for assistance.

For all other mailboxes:

  • Please speak with your apartment owner or manager, as they are responsible for purchasing, installing, and maintaining apartment mailboxes.
    • Your local apartment complex is also responsible for individual locks on the boxes and may keep a duplicate key to these locks.
  • The United States Postal Service is not able to help you access mailboxes owned and maintained by your apartment complex.

Find it here. Search by keyword: "mailbox key, broken, lost or stolen".

 
  Question #918: How can I get my HVAC license in New Jersey? Do I need years of experience? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Using Google search, put in "hvac license New Jersey" or something similar. You'll get more hits that you'll know what to do with, with many of them quite informative on this topic. Glen Stoltz

 
  Question #917: I would like to become a building super, but to get a job in a building there are typically certain licenses required (standpipe, #6 boiler, fire safety director, etc). However, to get those licenses you need a letter from an employer. This must be a common problem. Any suggestions from others as to how I could become licensed in those necessary areas? I've read over the FAQ but can't find the answer to this question. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: It seems you are confused about the need for these certificates of fitness. First of all supers do not need those certificates unless the building they operate has those systems. E.g. A super doesn't need a "number 6," AKA P-99 unless his building has a boiler that uses number 6 oil. If the boiler is gas, #2 or #4 oil or city steam no certificate is required. Same for Sprinklers and Standpipe. So, the need for the letter is to verify to the Fire Department that the systems are in the building and that the super is of good character and competent. The certificate meanwhile in the name of the super is given to the specific address. Thus when a super leaves a building for another, a new certificate is required. There is currently no requirement for a super to hold a Fire Safety Directors (FSD) Certificate in a residential building. FSDs are for commercial buildings. You may take the test for those certificates using a letter from a school where you took classes for those subjects. The FDNY will allow you to take the exam, and then give you one year to get a letter from an employer. Again, if the building doesn't have those systems, then a super isn't required to have them. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #916: I was asked to paint the entire basement without compensation. Management stated since the old super did it for free that I should too. Is that right? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: '"Is that right?"' It isn't a matter of what is right or wrong. History is full of those. Most building staff do paint basements. Painting of the basement should be done during your work hours, thus no need for additional compensation. That is why there are bonuses. You paint the basement when you can. Now, if you have absolutely no free time in your schedule to paint the basement, then that is a different issue. My staff paint the basement. My staff also paint all mechanical areas of the building. It is a matter of scheduling the work to fit into a work week/month. So it may take you a month or so to finish it. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
 

Question #915: I'm a union member for 13 years.  I have been working for 2 years at a Bronx Co-op of 70+ units. I work alone. This year we had a two day long snow and ice fall which happened on a Friday and Saturday. I was expected to go out on Saturday to shovel snow and ice in a city block radius around the building, this even after I injured myself Friday evening shoveling snow.  I know it is all about your first interview with the Board of Directors and management but, is their a fine line somewhere in which a building should hire assistance for the building superintendent? Or is there a limit of occupants per super? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Nothing remains the same. Buildings are forever changing, some slow, some faster than others. With the change comes also a change in demands and supply. There are times when every man needs help. I would write a letter to the board and simply state that the demands on your time are increasing and that there are times when you need help, such as with the ice and snow. It is not unreasonable to ask. Communications is very important between the super and the board. Rather then complain, you need to discuss these issues. If you want help with the letter to the board you can always email me the letter and I will make recommendations to you. Lastly, to go to the union without first going to the board is not a good move. See what the board says first. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #914: How can I lower the temperature  on an old Islandaire wall air conditioner? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Not exactly sure of your question. The unit comes with a fixed range thermostat from the factory. This thermostat is adjusted by the user to reach a comfort level according to the unit's capacity. Now, if your unit is not giving out enough cold air then most likely your unit needs repair. The thermostat has limits that can only go down so far, which is set by the factory. John

 
  Question #913: We are interviewing candidates for a super / handyman job in a 450 unit condo. Where can we find a list of questions to ask to be able to evaluate the applicant? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Please forgive me for sounding arrogant, but even if I gave you a list of questions to ask a superintendent on an interview, most likely 2/3's of the questions you and the managing agent would not know the answer to anyway.  Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer/Comment: I couldn't resist helping. IF you go to my website, www.GBOC.NET You will find "How To Hire A Superintendent?" there. One question, in addition to the listed suggestions is "what are some of your accomplishments?" Good luck, Peter

Answer/Comment: And don't forget, it's good to know what you should NOT ask:  "Interview Questions You Should Never Be Asked."

 
  Question #912: Is it mandatory for a union superintendent of a condo to keep spare keys for the residents in a key box in the superintendents office? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Union or not, this is not the question. Most leases in rental, co-op or condo building require that owners or renters provide a key to their apartments. Where the key is kept is a question of security. If there is a 24-hour doorman service, then 90% of the time the keys are kept in a locked box, near the doorman. There is no union rule that requires the keys to be kept in the supers office, but this is not a question for the union. If the employer requires these keys to be kept in the super's office, then, that is where they are going to be kept. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #911: I am a union superintendent on the upper east side and when starting my position here, my salary was reduced 20% from that of the previous superintendent's salary. Is this legal and normal practice? Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: Legal is a bit of a strong word. Unfortunately, unlike all the other building workers, base wages are not listed in the separate Superintendent’s contract, only raises are indicated. This was an attempt by the union to allow the Superintendent to “write his own ticket” as far as pay rate. Unfortunately it has not worked very well.  Most employers ONLY, and I must say, begrudgingly, give the exact raise as stipulated by the union contract. A select few lucky Supers have been able to command a higher base “salary”. Perhaps your predecessor was one of these. If that was the case, then your employer can reduce the base “salary” for a new hire. It is virtually impossible to obtain what this base should be from the union. I have tried. I do believe that once the employer gives you a “merit” raise, he can not reduce your salary in the future, according to the union. However you were a new hire and you signed on with your employer at a mutually agreed upon new base “salary” amount. As far as what this base rate should be, well this is only my opinion, but you should be getting about a hundred dollars a week more than your handyperson (if you have one). Of course, if you are one of those lucky few Superintendents, it could be substantially higher.

Answer/Comment: Base salary is base salary and merit pay is merit pay. The base salary for a super at a building is the basic pay that has been paid historically over the years which includes the per-year pay rise, union or not. Merit pay is when a super makes a deal for higher than base pay. This merit pay is separated on the pay check from base salary so that the two do not join as one. Now, If the previous super was receiving merit pay for whatever reason, the new super may not be entitled to this merit pay, but is entitled to the base pay - union or not. It is up to the employer to give the merit pay. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #910: As a union superintendent I understand there is no [universally agreed upon] job description for my position. It seems that without specific duties of superintendents in writing, almost anything goes. Who is benefiting from this "we will make it up as we go along" mentality? Shouldn't there be specific duties and obligations given to superintendents so they know exactly where they stand? I believe this would eliminate much ambiguity, confusion, headache and heartache. Post your answer or comment

Answer/Comment: A balanced, amicable and fair job description is only the beginning. While the union helps provide some job security and protection from overzealous or despotic building owners and co-op boards, it is still up to us, the supers, to transform ourselves into a much more marketable product. All too often, as echoed in the pages of this web site, we the superintendents, are still thought of as over-glorified porters. It is paramount that we must continually seek information, education and enlightenment if we are to elevate the position of superintendent to its proper professional level.

 
At the turn of this century, dentists used to ride around on horseback from town to town providing tooth pulling services for a few dollars. Today, a dentist is one of the highest paid professionals around. It is time for us, the superintendents, to “get off our horses” and claim our rightfully deserved position in society of the highly skilled professionals that we obviously are. We can achieve this goal, in great part, by being involved, supporting, and actively developing this organization, STA.

Answer/Comment: With relation to the answer of question #910, the first sentence. My union delegate has told me more than once "there is no job description". As mentioned in your answer "a balanced, amicable and fair job description" sounds most appropriate to me to maintain "order". Flying a plane without a compass is catastrophic. Most corporations have job descriptions, policies, and procedure manuals. Do you think it's about time superintendents have specific guidelines to follow. Unfortunately all too often there is much confusion and disrespect amongst management, co-op/condo boards, and superintendents. "Order" is vital for superintendents to achieve and bring themselves to their fullest potential.

Answer/Comment: Unfortunately some co-op/condo boards and some managements still have a "slumlord" mentality. Some of them do think of the superintendent as nothing more than over-glorified porters. They will push and force them to do everything and anything under the threat of job and apartment  termination. They do this in order to save money and feed their egotistical control issues. I thought slavery was abolished in 1863, so says the Emancipation Proclamation issued by our late President Lincoln. Gee! What happened?

 Answer/Comment: I like the term superintendent but perhaps it is a thing of the past. I don't see it losing its stigma any time soon. Maybe the term "building manager" not to be confused with the "managing agent" will do the trick, or something else similar. I was a general contractor (interior remodeling) for seventeen years here in Manhattan. I offer to the residents more skills and knowledge than they know what to do with. I am also very familiar with stigmas. However, it was nothing like what superintendents sometimes feel today.

Answer/Comment: One has to remember, in reference to co-op and condo boards (and the demands they make on management and staff that are sometimes seen as overbearing and reactionary) that as board members each has a duty to perform for their building. If the members of the board are seen as somehow failing their duty, they will be blamed by other watchful and critical residents for failing to react appropriately, or for doing the exact opposite of what "should have been done," just as they may have blamed the previous board members for their actions - or lack of action. Excessive peer pressure can do negative things to how a person reacts, and an individual's control (or other) issues can come to the surface in a very catastrophic way under intense public scrutiny and pressure. Seeing grown people act like 12-year-olds where their sometime oversized egos are at stake - not to mention their lifetime investment in their condo or co-op) can be a distinctly disturbing sight.

Answer/Comment: There are no standardized job descriptions for a building, simply because most buildings are not alike and require different duties. There are always the core duties that do not change from building to building but there are many other duties that do change. While there is no job description under the union contract for a superintendent, resident manager or even for handymen, porters and doormen, it is up to the building to provide such. The time to ask for a job description is at the interview. While the above statements are true, they are only true to a small percentage of buildings. Most building employers want to deal in good faith with the staff. Keep in mind that these job descriptions are subject to change as needs change. I can tell you that the job description for a superintendent has changed over the past 32 years of my experience. Lastly we are SUPERINTENDENTS. Not building managers, and not resident managers. These are just fancy titles to satisfy egos. Titles do not earn you the respect or the salary, it's your efforts that do. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #909: Next week I will be having a meeting at the R.A.B. office with my union representative, building manager, and his attorney. The issue is about me being requested to do major excessive plastering and painting work in the building as superintendent. If my union representative agrees with the building manager that all this work is part of my job, do I have the right to seek an arbitration hearing and have an impartial judge make the final decision on this matter? Post your answer or comment

Answer: As far as I know, It is the union that deals on your behalf. If the union agrees with management, then that is that. I believe you do have the right to your day in court so I believe you can request arbitration on the issue. But, the arbitrator will mostly uphold the agreement, after all, where is the disagreement if management and union agree. "If you don't like it find another job" will be the answer. However, this decision would be a very important development that will have industry-wide echoes and tidal waves. SO, PLEASE DO KEEP ME INFORMED of what happens. I believe the union will not permit what you are suggesting. If it does, LET ME KNOW. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #908: In a water leak in our co-op building a few items in Super's unit were damaged. Management rejected Super's request for compensation. Other people who suffered damages did not receive refund either because they did not have home insurance that would cover personal belongings. What shall Super do in such a situation? Is it common for Management to provide insurance for Super's unit? Post your answer or comment

Answer: Good question. In most cases a supers apartment is treated differently than any of the other apartments. It is up to the board to pay or not to pay for damages to super's personal belongings. However, as other apartments are warned or are recommended to get homeowners insurance, so it should have been done / told to the super when he was hired in writing. If the super did not receive such notice of obtaining homeowners insurance, like all the other apartments, then how was he to know he was not protected or covered by the building. In this case the board should pay for the damages as they failed to warn the super. After all, fair is fair. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #907: I am presently working as a superintendent (32BJ) in Manhattan and I am thinking of seeking employment in another building. I wish to send out my resume which will include my present employer and management company as required. How do I keep my present employer and management company from knowing I am seeking employment elsewhere. The management company has given nothing but headaches for the past year and I do not expect a kind word from them, should a potential new management call them for a reference. Post your answer or comment

Answer: Normally it is not wise to give out the current address and management company on the resume until you are sure, or they have said they are ready to call for references. However, by virtue of placing your address on the resume, they know the building and can easily find out who the management company is. Unless I know that the interviewing company does not have any ties to my current management company I would not put down current job information other then East 46th Street NYC, for example, and leave out the managing agent. If this is not satisfactory to the interviewing building then screw them. Do not take the chance. If your current job finds out that you are looking, they can begin to look and just maybe they will find someone before you find a job. Thus you can be terminated and the union will have a weak position, since you are looking and the building is protecting their interest. Its not the building's fault you are looking and it's not their fault that they found a replacement before you found a job. Again, it could happen - doesn't mean it will. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #906: I live in a 6-storey non-fireproof building. Recently we had a power failure in the building which affected the stairwells and fire stairs. The stairs were completely dark because the building does not have emergency lighting in the stairwells. Is it required to have emergency lighting? Post your answer or comment

Answer: There is no requirement for emergency lighting in stairwells or fire stairs for normal residential-only use buildings built pre-2000. Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: Even if the law does not require emergency lighting in the stairwell of your pre-2000 building, you should insist on it. Dick Koral

 
  Question #905: Is shoveling snow part of a doorman's duties in a Local 32BJ building in Manhattan? Post your answer or comment

Answer: Ask your delegate.  Peter Grech, GBOC

Answer: Yours is a tough question to clearly answer. How much shoveling are we taking about. A few feet in front of the building, is no big deal. If you were asked to clean a hundred feet of sidewalk, that is different. Most doormen are not provided adequate clothing or shoes to be shoveling large amounts of snow. Your residents might have a right to question the potential security breach, if you were out of sight of the door station shoveling snow. Again, it is all relative to the amount of snow removal you were asked to do. A light amount of snow removed directly in front building, helps keep the lobby drier and less messy, which in turn makes you look good as a doorman.  On the other hand it would be very unfair to ask you to shovel snow around the block in a major blizzard. William Aristovulos
 
  Question #904: I am a superintendent of a 48 unit condominium on East 86th Street. I work with only one other man, the porter. Can Local 32BJ be removed from this building. Post your answer or comment

Answer: Yes, size doesn't matter. All a building owner needs to do is not sign the new contract. This is usually the easiest way to remove the union. To do so in midterm of a contract is much harder as there is a contract. Sale of a building is another way, as the contract was with the old owner and not the new owner. It is rare that buildings "get rid" of the union. In fact, the union will put up a big fight. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #903: How many buildings can a super manage at a time? Post your answer or comment

Answer: There is no limit on how many buildings as long as the buildings are with in 200 feet of where the super lives. There IS a limit on how many apartments. The administrative codes limits 64 apartments to a super. Any more, then he would need full or part time help. Peter Grech, GBOC
 

 
  Question #902: I am a super of 5 buildings (103 units) and I would like to know if I must reside or not in one of the buildings. Post your answer or comment

Answer: No. A super does not have to live in the building. However, by code the super must live within 200 feet of the building he is a super of. Peter Grech, GBOC

 
  Question #901: Are there any general guidelines on the prohibiting of visitors to multi-family rental apartment buildings? Are there any helpful criteria on the BANNING of certain persons from returning as visitors to rental properties? Post your answer or comment

Answer: In a rental all terms and limitations are in the lease. If the lease has specific "rules" as a rider or within the lease then these rules rule. Otherwise, there are no rules pertaining to your question. Peter Grech, GBOC
 

 
  Question #900: I know someone who is a handyman in a union building, he also owns a contracting company. Could he do his personal work on the building's time? Post your answer or comment

Answer: You got to be kidding right? If he or any person did work on company time other than what was deemed company work, she/he/they would be in violation of ethical conduct, and theft of services. Now, of course, if he got permission to do this work on company time, say from the owner of the building or the board of directors, then it's OK. Peter Grech, GBOC