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LEGAL/FINANCIAL

For board members and property managers of co-ops and condos in New York City, there are legal and financial questions regarding new and old laws, accounting rules, auditing, and so much more. Here’s what you need to know to manage your finances and speak knowledgeably with your accountant and attorney.

 

Co-op and condo owners in New York often have to put up with quite a lot. The city's hustle and bustle means lots of construction, huge crowds, and relentless noise. Buying into a cooperative or condo is a huge investment, and quite naturally, those who do will want to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet in their new homes. But what happens when, say, a café opens up next door and a cacophony of voices begins to disrupt your quality of life? That's the question Ronda Kaysen tackles in this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. An apartment owner in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, writes: "This summer a cafe opened on an adjacent street and put tables out on a newly built deck that directly abuts my yard. The cafe built a six-foot fence atop my five-foot fence, making an 11-foot barricade to sunlight. This I could live with. What I can’t live with is the noise. Saturdays and Sundays are ruined by loud conversations and crying babies. I can also hear the noise inside my apartment." What's a person to do? Kaysen offers a multi-tiered solution. First, try talking to the café's owner — nicely. If that goes nowhere, go the community board. You can also try the Department of Buildings to see if the café has the proper permits, whether it filed plans describing the use of the space, whether it violates any rules about fire exits and emergency lighting, or if the space is even zoned for commercial use. And if that goes nowhere? Hit them where it hurts: "If the cafe has a liquor license, call the State Liquor Authority to complain. If a restaurateur is going to listen to anyone, he or she will listen to the agency that doles out liquor licenses."

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Moving Forward After Settling an Inch and a Half

Written by Bill Morris on September 21, 2015

New York City

Last week, we saw how a five-story, 19th-century tenement in Manhattan settled an inch and a half as a result of work on the new nine-story luxury condominium being constructed next door.

Steel "raker" beams were put in place to support the tenement's wall, cosmetic repairs were made to exterior cracks on the street side of the building so that costly sidewalk sheds would not have to be erected, and screw jacks supported the cracked basement joists. Eventually, work resumed, and the underpinning was completed in May without further incident. 

Permanent repairs — to damaged windows, doors, walls, and joists — will be addressed once the major construction work is complete. "This," says Christine Hobson, a structural engineer with RAND Engineering & Architecture, "is the worst scenario I've ever dealt with."

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When you live in a crowded city like New York where space is at a premium, you have to be a little creative. Take, for instance, the condo heading to West Chelsea. YIMBY got an updated look at the cantilevering project that will rise at 251 West 14th Street. Designed by ODA and developed by B+B Capital, "the structure will be relatively small, and the assemblage allows for a building measuring 24,000 square feet. Condominiums are currently envisioned, with 11 floor-through units planned," reports YIMBY, adding: "Cantilevers are becoming typical among the larger towers in New York City, but their application when it comes to smaller-scale construction is significantly more limited." Hey, it may not be the ideal choice for someone with vertigo, but it sure does look cool.

Rendering of 251 West 14th Street by ODA

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When Does the Law Say Enclosures Must Go?

Written by Frank Lovece on September 18, 2015

New York City

 

Enclosures may need to come down for legal reasons. Many enclosures were installed before there were any regulations in place. And so throughout the city, enclosures went up in a variety of ways: some with both Department of Buildings (DOB) permits and board approval, some with just one or the other, and some with neither. And now each presents boards with a different scenario.

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As nice as it would be for everyone in a cooperative to live in harmony, it's perfectly normal sometimes for people not to see eye to eye. When tense situations escalate into heated arguments, we always recommend mediation over taking conflicts to court. Why? Because lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming. Take the Dakota. Back in 2011, financier Alphonse Fletcher Jr., who has lived in the building since 1992 and served nearly a decade on its board — including two terms as president — filed a lawsuit against the Dakota after the board rejected his request to buy a three-bedroom, $5.7 million apartment adjacent to the one in which he lives. He charged that rejecting the sale was the board's way of retaliating against him for standing up for the rights of other minority and Jewish shareholders and applicants. Fast-forward to 2015, many years and lots of money later, and it looks like bad news for Fletcher. The New York Times reports that "a judge in Manhattan has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the financier against the Dakota, ruling that Mr. Fletcher had failed to provide evidence that the celebrated building's co-op board had discriminated against him because he is black." According to The Times, "Dakota board members said liquidity, not race, led them to reject" Fletcher's bid to buy the apartment. They said "in depositions that they had rejected Mr. Fletcher because he had only $50,000 in liquid assets, millions in debt and mounting losses at his businesses." Justice Eileen A. Rakower of State Supreme Court in Manhattan said "there was not enough evidence of discrimination to warrant a jury trial." And if you think it's finally over, think again. Fletcher plans to appeal the ruling. 

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When the cops finally came for Michael Richter, the board members of one Queens co-op knew they had done the right thing. Richter, owner of Charter Management, had acted as managing agent for Forest Hills South Owners, a 605-unit co-op spread across seven buildings. They fired him.

On July 13, 2010, police arrested Richter and charged him with five counts of second-degree grand larceny and five counts of first-degree falsification of business records. Richter was also charged with embezzling almost $1 million in tenant maintenance fees throughout a six-year period from five co-op buildings in Jamaica, Forest Hills, Rego Park, and Elmhurst.

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When it comes to selling your apartment, you can use all the help you can get.

You've heard all the sayings: one is the loneliest number, it takes two to tango, there's no "I" in team, two brokers are better than one. Well, maybe you've never heard the last phrase, but as a board member and a potential seller of your apartment, you may want to consider it.

So what is a co-broker arrangement, and what can it do for you? 

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Wasn't it just a few days ago that we were talking about a 17-story condo rising in place of a garage between Broadway and West End Avenue — just outside the Upper West Side's historic district? Well, it looks like the UWS has lost another garage, this one located at 221 West 77th Street. According to Curbed, this is developer Naftali Group's second garage-to-condo conversion, and it's been in progress for some time now. "With a design by Danish architect Thomas Juul-Hansen and a selection of 26 two- to five-bedroom condos, it's not slated for occupancy until 2017, [but] its units are officially on the." How much are we talkin'? Prices range from $4 million — what a bargain — to a whopping $23 million clams. What's in it for those who buy? It looks like it's the usual suspects: fitness center, basketball court, on-site parking, and a roof deck. 

Rendering: Naftali Group

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Do Enclosures Need to Be Removed for a FISP Inspection?

Written by Frank Lovece on September 16, 2015

New York City

 

Not necessarily. Herb Kamens is a longtime board member and current secretary-treasurer at the two-building Carlton co-op in Lindenwood Village, Queens. "The last time we redid the balconies [with painting and waterproofing] about eight or nine years ago, we insisted that people take off their enclosures. And it hurt a lot of people because when they took the enclosures off they couldn't put them back properly and [the enclosures] collapsed," he recalls. 

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It was more than two months ago that a judge ruled in favor of the remaining seniors left at the Prospect Park Residence retirement facility. Known as one of Park Slope's worst landlords, Haysha Deitsch has successfully forced out 130 residents so he can build an 11-story luxury condo building in its place. Apparently, Deitsch is still at war with the remaining residents. According to Curbed, "a previous deal to sell the building for $76.5 million fell through when the tenants would not leave. He's previously been charged with refusing to turn on the building's air-conditioning, raising the rents, and handing residents eviction notices when they refused to pay increased rents." Regardless of the continued hostilities at 1 Prospect Park West, it looks like Deitsch has plans to build more luxury condos over on Fourth Avenue. He filed building permits at 243 Fourth Avenue last Wednesday, reports Curbed, which indicate an 118-foot-tall, 11-story residential development with 35,500 square feet. There will be 16 apartments total averaging about 2,000 square feet per unit. Citing YIMBY, Curbed adds that the building amenities will include "a pet spa, bike storage, a children's play room in the cellar, and a recreation space on the third floor. There will also be 3,171 square feet of commercial space and a 271-square-foot community facility on the ground floor." 

Photo via Google Street View 

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