Tuesday, March 8, 2011

GenBlog2: Now That We're On The Show, The Real Holy Grail... Coop Board Approval

One might imagine being rewarded a bedroom makeover on a national cable TV channel is the holy grail. But in retrospect, finding out we made the cut for Season 4 of HGTV's "Dear Genevieve" was the easy part—at least compared to gaining approval from my Coop Board.

In New York, most homeowners live in a cooperative—where residents own shares in the building. Unlike a condo, that means that beyond painting walls, renovations require Board approval. It also requires a collective nod from the governing body to even move into the building—and from well-tread stories about celebrities hoping to live in various New York buildings, as most folks know, one can be rejected for any reason, without explanation.

Ironically, I sat as VP of my building’s Coop Board for several years, and I was typically the jackass that gave potential new residents a hard time when they had cacophonous screaming infants. I inquired about their job situations, who would be manning the children, asking about nannies and insuring that they understood this building was not to be a daycare center with strollers lining the lobby and halls.

Payback's a bitch, huh?

The first step toward gaining Coop Board approval for our five-day "Dear Genevieve" makeover was to approach our building manager, and fill out a “Minor Renovation” application, outlining details of the job. Turns out she is a fan of the show… a great first impression—which quickly soured once the bid went to the five-member Board.

I impressed upon them that what might typically be a three-month reno would be accomplished in less than one week. I made sure to use the term “makeover” instead of renovation. I outlined all details, including removal of carpet/installation of hardwood floors, molding replacement, skimming & painting, replacement of a ceiling light fixture, installation of a door… making clear there was no relocation of walls, architectural upheaval or landmarks concerns. No electrical work or plumbing. Easy, right?

In addition, HGTV was providing insurance for the makeover, alongside my homeowner’s policy. All “house rules" would be followed. The building super would be fully informed. Neighbors would be versed...

Not so fast, buddy. I presented the package to the board in the middle of October and was informed there “are lots of questions and concerns.” A scant few among the dozens of roadblocks:

* The Board did not want photos of the building on the show(!) Mind you, hundreds of tourists that pass through the nabe every day take picolas, while the historic structure has appeared on dozens of real estate webbies and blogs. Isn’t the façade public property? This isn’t looking pretty...
* The Board “doesn’t want to know the filming is going on; that’s how quiet they want it to be.” As if caterwauling babies in the building are silent? As if a full-on months-long renovation is mute?
* "Clarification in writing that the crew will abide by Brooklyn 'noise ordinances,' no noisy construction after 5 p.m."
* "Contractors and cameras out by 5 p.m." Hmm, cameras make no noise… Is that any different than having “company” in my home?

Most frustrating was that each time I addressed the Board’s questions with the show’s producers, I was handed a half-dozen more "concerns." It began to look as if the makeover was being sabotaged, that no matter how satisfactorily I responded, a new series of challenges was waiting in the wings.

At last I realized the only way to potentially save this opportunity was to speak to the Board face to face. It made a difference. Addressing the ongoing list of mandates one on one seemed to dissolve so much minutia. In the end, I was asked to provide the Building Manager a reference from a previous “Dear Genevieve” makeover—fair enough—which checked out with an absolute thumbs up.

Three months to the day after I presented the “Minor Renovation” proposal to the Coop Board, at last I gained approval… and was then told by the “Genevieve” producers that we had missed the Season 4 deadline. Our Jan. 10 makeover was now being pushed months forward.

Well, shit…