NYC Water Bill -- Metered or Flat Rate?

One of our readers owns an eight-unit building and is debating whether to pay a flat or metered rate for the water bill.

Brownstoner reader Shamrock writes:

I have a building with 8 one bedroom apartments occupied by young couples. At the moment I am paying $8,000 a year in flat rate billing by NYC DEP. There are no washing machines in the building, and the plumbing is new. Should I be on metered billing, or am I just as well off paying the flat rate?

What’s the best option here? A couple of commenters have voted for metered, but what do you think? Chime in on the original post.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Brooklyn Kitchen & Bathroom Plumbing Installation Costs

A Brownstoner reader is replacing several bathroom and kitchen fixtures as part of a large renovation project and wants to know what kind of price range to expect.

Reader chioggiabeetroot writes:

As a part of a much larger renovation project to be done by one contractor, we are replacing several fixtures. The following items will be replaced but the locations are exactly the same: 3-side alcove bath, small bathroom vanity, bath shower fixtures.

The kitchen sink will be moved about two feet along the same wall, with all plumbing concealed behind cabinets.

This is in a home that’s in good condition, and all of the existing items are under 10 years old. Not including any tile, cement board, etc., what do you think is a fair price range for installing these items–bathtub,shower fixtures, bathroom sink, kitchen sink?

Have you undergone a similar kitchen or bathroom project? How much did it cost you to replace and install these items? Head over to the original Forum post to add your two cents.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

[Photo: Sea Gate Reno]

Project Manager for House Renovation -- Essential?

One of our readers is planning a massive renovation of a three-story Williamsburg townhouse. Does he need to hire a project manager in addition to the general contractor, or can he get by without one?

Brownstoner reader brooklynbrad writes:

My husband and I have had lots of experience over the years renovating the rental income apartments we’ve owned in Detroit and Asbury Park, NJ, as well as doing a combination of two small apartments to create our former home on West 72nd Street, so we’re very familiar with the process of renovating. But now that we own a 3-story town house in Williamsburg and are planning to add a 4th floor and create a ground floor rental unit and 3-floor owners triplex, this will easily be the biggest and most expensive project we’ve ever taken on, and frankly, it’s rather daunting. An architect friend suggested that one possible solution to consider is hiring an experienced project manager to work with us a few hours a week to oversee the general contractor, the schedule, the billing and do regular site visits, since his/her experience in this type of project would be much greater than ours, and would help expedite and keep costs under control. I’ve never heard of such a position and am intrigued by the idea. Have any of you ever had someone like this on your renovations? If so, what are their typical duties, what do they cost when working part time for you, and has it been beneficial to your schedule and budget?

Have you ever hired a project manager for a renovation project? Is it essential? Chime in over in the original Forum post.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Recessed Lighting Alternatives in Brooklyn Row House

A Brownstoner reader is starting a row house renovation and his contractor is recommending recessed lights.

Jim writes:

Hi all. We are about to start a renovation of a row house. I am not a huge fan of recessed lighting and we chose not to put recessed lights in our last brownstone. However that house was always really dark and it was hard even with floor lamps to get our living room properly lit (and it had windows on three sides).

Our contractor wants to install lots of recessed lights in the row house we’re working on now. It’s attached on both sides, gets lots of light in back which is south facing but very little in the front. We’ll have one large light fixture in the front room and a kitchen island with a few pendant lights in the back of the main floor. Any ideas on how to light the space without adding a dozen recessed lights?

What do you think? Have you used a fitting alternative to recessed lighting fixtures?

Head over to the original post to give Jim your suggestions.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

[Photo: earthisthering via Flickr]

Noisy Apartment Super Takes Trash Out Late Night

A Brownstoner reader (and his or her neighbors) were woken up over the weekend when the next-door building’s super made a racket while taking out trash at 2:30 a.m.

jumping in writes:

Ok, so this morning at 2:30AM at least 4 people in our building were awoken by the neighboring building’s super who was noisily removing the trash from his building. It was being done in an extremely careless manner as he threw planks of wood into the dumpster and kicked bags of recycled glass / aluminum which had fallen to the ground. In short, a veritable racket. A few of us asked him from our apartment windows if he wouldn’t mind stopping the work as it was very late (early). He responded with answers like “Be quiet” and “I’m doing my job”. Someone in our building called the police who briefly showed up but left without anyone speaking to them. At that point, I ventured next door at about 3AM to talk to the super directly. We had a 2 minute conversation on the sidewalk which ended with him flatly stating “I’m the super in this building and I’ll work whenever I want”. What should or can we do?

Beyond the request the poster already made to the super, what can be done to prevent noisy off-hours working?

Commenters have already suggested contacting the building’s co-op board or condo association. Can anything else be done? To give the reader advice, head over to the original post in the Forum.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

[Photo: Seth Werkheiser via Flickr]

Rent Stabilized Apartment Landlord Dies: What Happens?

A Brownstoner reader’s landlord died and his companion is refusing to renew tenants’ leases.

mzkbee writes:

My landlord died a year ago. His çompanion is in charge of his estate and she is refusing to renew tenants leases. She is also refusing to meet with tenants to discuss the status of the building. My building is an SRO and it is rent stabilized.

I don’t feel comfortable living in a building without a lease and a dead landlord. What should me and the other tenants do?

As we covered last month, and as commenters suggested, what the poster shouldn’t do is spend his or her rent money. But what can they do to feel secure in an apartment without a lease while the legal issues get sorted?

Help the reader out over in the Forum.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo by Barbara Eldredge

Tenant Rights: NYC Building Renovation Causes Noise & Dust

A Brownstoner reader who rents an apartment in East Williamsburg just resigned a lease with a hiked-up monthly rent — but then the landlord began a disruptive gut renovation.

Commenter nicanica writes:

I am a tenant who recently renewed a lease in a 4-unit building in East Williamsburg. The rent went up $400, which I protested because the building has been neglected over the years and is in disrepair in a variety of ways. I ended up re-signing anyway, which I now regret, because a month later the landlords have begun gut renovating every unit in the building except for mine. The halls are filled with dust, the building is loud, and the landlords have employed someone to “live” in the apartment below mine for “security”. This person chain-smokes right below my bedroom all night and begins loud construction work at 7:30 every morning. Meanwhile the main hallway and entrance to the building are just trashed. Do I have any recourse? Is it within the landlord’s legal rights to do this kind of work without informing tenants ahead of time? I’ve been reading the tenants bill of rights and this seems to be a gray area, so I was wondering if at least there needs to be a DOB permit posted in one of the main areas. Thanks to anyone who has some information for me on anything I can do, or anything my landlord is required to do.

What are the tenant’s rights here? Commenters suggest this shouldn’t be difficult to get out of — what do you suggest the poster do? Chime in over in the Forum.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Bathroom Waterproofing: Grout Or Caulk For Shower Tiles?

Reader CHM writes in the forum:

“The caulk/grout between our bathtub and wall tiles has turned black with mold. I want to regrout and think we should just use grout with a sealer. But, I’ve heard it’s better to use caulk. We currently have a layer of caulk over the grout… We don’t have time to dry that area after each shower.”

What’s the difference between grout and caulk, anyway? And how do you properly install tile so that the water doesn’t get where it shouldn’t be? And what’s with the mold?

Brownstoner has the answers. (more…)

NYC FAR Air Rights For Backyard Extension Overbuilding

One of our readers is concerned that a neighbor is going too far in his house addition.

Brownstoner reader deano writes:

Neighbor is extending the house into the back yard with a full width, 3-story extension. FAR and rear yard depth allows him (sadly robbing me of light and air) to go back about 14-15 feet from the original rear wall, but seems like he’s actually building 18-20 feet back.

Do I have any ability to check what he got approved for vs. what he’s building, and if he really is overbuilding, how can i cry foul??

Can you help the original poster out? Check out the full thread in the Forum.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo by L Hoffheins via Flickr

Renovation dust & odor from neighbor's construction

A Brownstoner reader is dealing with odors and dust from a renovation happening next door and is concerned about the impact it might be having on their own building.

classon writes:

The house next to me, which is old and in poor condition, is being gutted. Both houses are dusty with age anyway, never mind vibrations from the demo loosening even more dust.

About 2 weeks ago I came home to a terrible odor in the front room on the garden level. It was definitely a smell resulting from the work next door—bitter and very unpleasant. There was also a lot of dust in the room, along the wall that’s adjacent to the house being reno’d. On that wall there is a fireplace (not in use though it acts as a chimney for the furnace) that is blocked with plywood but not totally sealed as far as I can remember. There’s also wainscoting that’s in decent condition cosmetically, but not restored, so there are cracks that can also let in dust. I cleaned the room and it helped a little with the smell but it lingered.


Purchasing land from a neighbor

One of our readers wants to purchase a 20-foot-wide strip of land from a next-door neighbor who’d sell it. dindy writes:

I would like to purchase a strip of land about 20 feet wide at the back of my neighbor’s property. He would agree to sell it, since his yard is quite deep and he doesn’t use it. I am quite sure t wouldn’t affect his FAR. What is the process ? I am sure there are permits involved, but don’t know where to begin.

Commenters warn that this would be a lengthy and costly process, but others suggest it might actually be feasible. What do you think? Chime in on the original forum post.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.
Photo via Wikipedia

bathroom tile renovation

A Brownstoner reader came home to a bathroom renovation to find tiles that weren’t installed properly.

Poster jspheights writes:

We came home to our bathroom renovation today and saw that $1400 of glass penny round tile was installed incorrectly – large, visible seams, gaps, and more. The grout has been laid and has been setting for 12 hours. Is there a way to salvage the tile?

Any recommendations for tilers who have experience and can provide shots of their work with penny rounds?

Any precedents/recommendations for dealing with the contractor tomorrow and reviewing this botched job?

How have you dealt with bungled renovation work? What would you say to the contractor? Help our reader over in the original Forum post.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo by Juhan Sonin via Flickr