By Joe Anuta
The green scaffolding that was erected seven years ago and still covers the tower of Station Square Apartments ï»¿at the Forest Hills Long Island Rail Road stop is set to come down this year.
Martin Restituyo, president of the apartments’ co-op board, said there is finally enough money in the board’s coffers to make all the required repairs to the exterior and remove the scaffolding. The extra money came from cost-saving measures — and a few legal battles.
“This year we expect to have the money to finish,” Restituyo said. “Finally we’re on the right track.”
But getting there involved calling in some old debts with the help of the courts, according to Restituyo.
One tenant, former board President Leonard Lombard, who owns 13 apartments in the building, agreed to pay at least $149,785 in fees to the co-op, according to court documents from a civil lawsuit.
But Restituyo said he hopes to recoup more than $350,000 when the suit is over.
On another legal front, Restituyo said the co-op hopes to get up to $750,000 in unpaid fees from the man who rents the commercial spaces on the first floor.
In total, the nearly $1 million will allow the board to repair the facade of the building.
Restituyo said that when he took over as board president in 2008, the apartment complex was running at a $500,000 per year deficit.
“I’ve never seen a building with so many problems. It’s almost as if people went out of their way to mess it up,” he said. “The co-op had been mismanaged for the better part of 30 years.”
The scaffolding — designed to protect pedestrians from brick and stone falling off the building’s crumbling facade — has long been considered an eyesore to the surrounding Forest Hills Gardens Corp.ï»¿ But the aging facade needed many tiles and sections of brick replaced before the scaffolding could come down.
The corporation is responsible for regulating the exterior of the houses and structures within the private community, which includes Station Square Apartments, in order to preserve the character of the area.
In 2004, the corporation sued Station Square Apartments, demanding the removal of the large, green blight.
The suit was not successful, and without the funds to make repairs the scaffolding sat untouched for years, until now.
But even without the outstanding debts, after three years Restituyo and the board have managed to make the co-op profitable by cutting costs that were considered excessive and in some cases absurd.
For example, the board discovered it had been paying the gas bill for the building across the street for several years.
“We called up National Grid and are expecting to get a refund of possibly $100,000 this year,” he said.
In another case, the co-op was paying for a phone line belonging to a superintendant who retired in 2009.
“Things like that have come up time and time again. All we’ve done is due diligence, asking, ‘What is this bill for, and do we really need it?’” he said.
The new funds will be used to restore the building, which celebrated its 100th birthday last year, to its former glory.
“Ultimately, the building was meant to be the center of Forest Hills Gardens, and in a few years it will be back to where it was meant to be,” Restituyo said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260-4566.