Every time a co-op or condo building needs exterior work - an occurrence more regular now than a quarter century ago - a group of highly-trained, highly-specialized, and extremely brave professionals arrive to carry out the project. They set up scaffolding, lower swinging platforms, use heavy, often dangerous, equipment and supplies with the goal of providing a façade facelift or complete overhaul.
Just as New York's landscape continually changes, so too have the exterior maintenance trades. Heights have escalated, materials have changed, regulations have become far stricter, and the pace of work in a hot real estate market has multiplied. For boards and managing agents faced with a façade refurbishment project, it's a smart idea to get an understanding of the regulations and the players - and their training and licensing - who will be involved in the project.
In 1979, a piece of terra cotta masonry fell from the facade of an Upper West Side building and killed a passing college student. This tragedy provided the impetus for the city to take action to redress a glaring deficiency: the lack of oversight over building exteriors.
"It used to be that the decision to make repairs to the façade was the decision of the individual buildings and owners," says Michael Grant of Accura Restoration Inc. in Astoria. "Obviously, this didn't work very well. If you were on Central Park West, or on Park Avenue, they took care of the building," he says, but otherwise, not so much.
The city government that often moves at a glacial pace reacted swiftly and decisively, enacting Local Law 10 the following year, 1980. The new law, known as Local Law 10/80, required buildings to fix unsafe facades as soon as discovered, among other new rules.