Several multi-family residences constructed within the past thirty years are due for capital improvements requiring refinancing. In an effort to preserve affordable housing, City and State agencies enable funding for these much needed renovations. While not glamorous or sexy the work is necessary and reflects proper stewardship, especially for non-profit owners who have a greater burden of bureaucracy.

Tenant-in-Place renovation of 8 West 118th Street, Manhattan.

Lenders generally require a physical needs assessment (PNA), which will list expected lifetimes of building systems, prioritize needed work, and provide rough costs.

Architects and engineers engaged in practice are needed to provide a more in-depth scope of work, plans, and later on construction documents and specifications.

Building components approaching the end of their useful life are high on the list. The most common work includes; roof replacement, renovation of kitchens and bathrooms, replacement of worn finishes, and doors and windows, elevator overhaul. Energy performance improvements include new LED light fixtures, new Energy Star appliances, higher efficiency boilers, low-flow plumbing fixtures, to name a few. For NYC buildings, faƧade inspections and remediation required by the department of buildings may be required.

New roof at 330 Hinsdale Street, Brooklyn.

Capital improvements maintain the buildings value and life and ensure a qualitative living environment for tenants. There are fewer maintenance problems, reduced complaints, lower operating costs, and the value of the property increases.

Performing construction in a fully occupied building is difficult work by its very nature as the noise, dust and debris are antithetical to healthy habitation. There are ways to mitigate the discomfort though and below are some helpful tips and traps to be aware of:


Inconvenience to the entire building; service disruptions, loss of physical space, dip in quality of environment..

Dust barrier within corridor at Stardom Hall.

Scheduling; access to apartments, loss of utilities, use of elevators, construction inspections.

Security; managing construction workforce effectively, insuring against personal property loss.

Field conditions; existing conditions that are discovered to be contrary to original plans or to be substandard.


Provide hospitality unit if the building has any vacancies.

Provide a hospitable recreation area or lounge for residents who may be there during the hours of construction.

Lounge area at Tinton Avenue.

Provide movers to assist tenants in moving furniture.

For single elevator buildings where there is to be reduced or no service, provide runners to assist tenants carry groceries, and any bundles up the stairs.

Keep tenants informed of construction progress; weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings. Inform them of completed, ongoing and upcoming work. Inform tenants well in advance of events.

Provide contact information that tenants can use for duration of construction, and process by which they can communicate any problems swiftly; general purpose and intent of the renovation, project schedule, contact list, etc. This information, which should be updated regularly, can be provided both digitally and posted at appropriate locations in the building.

Provide model apartment, perhaps using the hospitality unit, to show residents what is expected beforehand.

Model apartment for tenant viewing before construction Silverleaf Hall, Bronx.

Most importantly, it is of great benefit to use a team that has performed this work before and is aware of these fine points. Most critically, make sure the contractor has a handle on coordinating his trades to reduce any downtime. Demolition, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, finishes work, all must be performed as seamlessly as possible.