Spring Cleaning A Time to Recover and Repair

Spring: Glimpses of forsythia overhanging the walls of the Central Park transverses, dogwoods and magnolias blossoming in the Strawberry Fields and crocuses sprouting from sidewalk planters. For many, spring is a rebirth, a reaffirmation of life, a season of optimism. For apartment dwellers, spring may simply mean changing the clothes in the closet, having the windows cleaned and planting flowers in the window box. For co-op and condo buildings, spring means painting the hallways and lobby, cleaning the awnings and polishing the brass and planting trees, shrubs and flowers on the grounds. In general, spring is a time to repair damages inflicted by the harsh winter.

For co-ops and condos, springtime is when the annual agendas for building maintenance and grounds is set forth. Gregg Carlovich, the resident manager for two buildings, 3 East 69th Street and 4 East 70th Street, says that spring is a busy time "because it's when we decide on everything for the year." March begins spring cleaning and preparation for the summer and winter, he explains. "We plan to have everything done by Thanksgiving, then we're busy with deliveries and parties during the holidays and, finally, it's shoveling snow during January and February." By March, it's time for planning the next year again. "It works out well," Carlovich says. "Over the years, I've developed a rhythm."

Cleaning on the Upper East Side

3 East 69th Street and 4 East 70 Street are pre-war co-ops designed during the height of the art deco period by Sylvan Bien, a noted architect who also designed the Carlisle Hotel and 737 Park Avenue. Both overlook Central Park and 4 East 70th Street faces the Frick Museum. The two lobbies are decorated with murals that have won recognition in the art world. Although Carlovich notes that the restoration of the murals is not seasonal, the care of the lobby each Spring season is. "The dirt and salt that comes in from the snow makes our terrazzo floors really dull," says Carlovich. "The floors get cleaned and polished once the weather improves and we check the brass in the lobby to determine whether it should be cleaned and polished." The lobby work is not the first item on Carlovich's agenda; in fact, it is the last detail on a multi-task spring cleaning list.

Carlovich starts each March going through the basement of each of the buildings. "We have the boiler company come out and look at the boiler since it's been burning heavy oil." Adjustments are made to ensure that the boiler is working efficiently and is not wasting oil during the non-heating season. Next, Carlovich and the building engineer walk the perimeter of the building. "We identify any new cracks or problems that have occurred over the winter. The idea is if you address it now, have the work done in the summer, the repairs will by finished by fall," he says.

The engineer then walks through the two buildings' interiors. "We develop painting programs for the hallways, stairways, public halls and service areas. We map it out and schedule the work for the next few months so that we're done by summer. Then we're heavy with work from apartment renovations."

Carlovich says, "We also do exterior cleaning - windows at basement levels, awnings and the decorative railings. "We hire a tree service to inspect the trees for damage to the roots, we develop our plant maintenance for the year and sign an annual contract with a landscaper." During the spring and summer, trees are fed and pruned weekly and hedges are sprayed for moths and worms.

Water tanks in the building are cleaned in both March and October and a Carlovich sends a newsletter to shareholders at the start of Spring. "We remind shareholders to maintain their air conditioners, check the batteries in their smoke detectors and to make sure their apartment insurance is in place."

A Queens Cleaning

Overlooking the Hudson River and Spuyten Duyvil Creek is the two-building, 252-unit Knolls Section #2, Inc. co-op. Sitting areas, massive gardens and wooded spaces provide tranquil spots for the cooperators who live there. Fred Kaplan had been the board member in charge of management at the co-op for twelve years before becoming board president this past year. He, like Carlovich, has a system for the work that needs to be done on the Knolls property every Spring. Kaplan manages a staff of four workers and one office employee and much of the work, both inside and out, is done in-house.

"It's more cost-effective to start from the outside of the co-op and work in, so we begin with a general clean-up of all the garden areas. Trees are deep-rooted and fertilized including one oak tree that is over 150 years old" Kaplan states with pride. The outdoor railing and fences are painted, boilers are cleaned and inspected and new bait stations are set to capture rodents. Parking lines are painted in the lots and all sidewalks are inspected and patched, if necessary. The 25,000 gallon water tank is drained and cleaned, as is the compactor chute.

Once inside, Kaplan says that the basement and corridors are painted - a bi-annual venture. Carpets in hallways are shampooed and "all batteries are checked for back-up emergency lighting," he adds. Smoke detectors are checked on a six-month basis.

Over on Long Island

Rolinda Antone, managing agent of Great Neck Terrace, a 28-building co-op situated off Northern Boulevard on Long Island has the big job of maintaining the 38-acre property featuring a breathtaking pool, children's pool, volleyball court, patios, snack bar and the abundance of lush plants and flowers scattered throughout the property.

For Great Neck Terrace, spring means ordering seeds, landscaping, preparing the grounds, and cleaning the lounge chairs. Sand is ordered for the volleyball court, awnings are repaired and cleaned and the stucco on the buildings is power washed. To keep the property beautiful, Antone maintains a staff of 20 men - no outside contractors are hired to maintain the grounds. "The men even do the pool cleaning," says Antone.

Another Spring chore for Antone is hiring six lifeguards and one gate guard for the pool. Pool passes are made up for the season, which, according to Antone, "is a lot of work." Work that is worth it, however when the pool is filled with people of all ages, the grass is green and the flowers are everywhere!

Ms. Wagner is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.

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