December 27, 2018

Apartment Supers Get Schooled - Building Operator Training Benefits Supers, Tenants and Bronx Affordable Housing!

by UNHP

Thanks to the Building Operator Training Program provided by the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the Building Performance Lab of CUNY’s Sustainable Building Initiative, fourteen (14) UNHP building superintendents, and two ownership representatives have received 30 hours of intensive training designed to improve multifamily operations and maintenance as well as save energy and curb operating costs. UNHP hosted the classes and invited our neighborhood affordable housing partners, Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation (FBHC), Rose Hill Housing Management, and Dougert Management Corporation to participate in the no-cost energy efficiency training for multifamily building operators, recommended to UNHP by The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority,(NYSERDA), our partners for energy efficiency.

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Excellent bilingual classroom instruction, detailed training manuals in English or Spanish, and hands-on demonstrations on operating building systems proved a winning combination for the 14 superintendents and two ownership representatives who completed the 30-hour CUNY Building Performance Lab Building Operators Training Program.


The Building Operator Training was hosted by UNHP in the Community Room at West Farms Square, an 8 building, 526 Unit Affordable Housing Project co-owned by FBHC and UNHP located in the West Farms section of the Bronx. The 14 supers participating in the training oversee 24 buildings and reside in the properties where they oversee the day to day maintenance of these properties that are home to over 790 low-income and senior citizen households located throughout the Bronx. The properties are varied in size and development history - ranging from an 8 unit walk-up on Valentine Avenue, gut renovated in the 1980s with Low-Income Tax credits to a 119 unit HUD 202 low-income senior building built in 1985 and significantly renovated by UNHP in 2009. The superintendents also have varied levels of experience and expertise; some supers have cared for their buildings for almost twenty years, while others are still learning the ropes after only six months. While many supers in the training were English/Spanish bilingual, some only spoke Spanish and others only English. The CUNY professor, Apolianar Almonte who is also bilingual, gave attendees the option of English or Spanish textbooks and was able to make sure that all in attendance understood each topic thoroughly through translation, one on one explanations, graphics, and physical demonstrations using existing building systems at West Farms Square.

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One of the ways UNHP works to achieve its mission to create and preserve affordable housing and bring resources to the northwest Bronx is through Bronx community-based affordable housing development and preservation. The superintendents who attended the training represent 24 multifamily properties in UNHP’s portfolio and the properties range in size and development history.

Over the course of 10 classes, from September through November, the Supers were able to dive into subjects like the building envelope and ventilation, boiler maintenance and operation, heat distribution and controls, water conservation and plumbing, health and safety measures, electrical maintenance and energy efficiency, building management communication and the inner workings of non-profit ownership structures. Each topic was accompanied by real-life examples, simulation, and spirited discussion. In a time where building operation costs are rising quickly, Owner’s Representatives were able to identify inefficiency in maintenance practices through feedback and come up with constructive solutions where possible. Owners and supers were also able to troubleshoot ongoing issues and implement recommended practices in an effort to increase efficiency, safety, and communication going forward. The combination of training materials, classroom lessons, and hands-on demonstration elevated the skill and expertise of all involved. Additionally, the sharing of expertise among the superintendents, the owner’s representatives and the professor added significantly to the quality and effectiveness of the training.

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The Building Operators Training Program emphasized that conserving energy, minimizing water leaks and usage and saving money in multifamily properties are intertwined. As the on-site professionals in the buildings, trained superintendents are the key to a well-maintained and financially stable affordable housing property. UNHP provided lunch during the break because it’s hard to learn on an empty stomach!

Jose Lainez, a Superintendent who has maintained a 50 unit building in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx for the last 6 years, gave us some feedback on his experience with the Building Operator Training:

“The training has changed the way I view the building. I understand now how the systems work and how to give safe and proper maintenance to them. Every building superintendent and property manager should receive this training to keep their buildings running with efficiency.”

At the conclusion of the Building Operator Training, each participant received a well-deserved certificate of completion and returned to their buildings to implement the tools and procedures that they gained from the training into the operations of their buildings.

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Smiling graduates receive their certificates from CUNY Professor Apolianar Almonte

The training helped to build UNHP’s capacity to fulfill our mission to create, preserve and improve affordable housing and bring resources to the northwest Bronx. Running buildings efficiently helps to control operating costs especially when affordable rents are a priority. Recognizing the superintendents as the front-line maintenance professionals they are and creating a network of knowledge and support will help UNHP and FBHC maintain the high quality of its affordable housing portfolio.

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CUNY Building Performance Lab Building Operators Training 2018 - UNHP Graduating Class

We thank NYC Department of Small Business Services, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, CUNY Building Performance lab, Professor Almonte, Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation, Rose Hill Housing Management and Dougert Management Corporation for making this training a success. Most importantly we thank our Building Superintendents for their participation in the training. They are the eyes and ears of these projects and keep them running smoothly day in and day out. UNHP highly recommends the CUNY Building Operators Training to other affordable housing owners and managers. If you are interested in hosting the Building Operator Training for your building professionals we recommend that you reach out to James Lane at jlane@ccny.cuny.edu


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