HABITAT

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.

It's getting to feel like you can't swing a cat without hitting a condo on 14th Street. A New York YIMBY reader sent the publication photos of a new rendering showing the planned condo that will rise at 209 West 14th Street. The four-story building that stood in there was just demolished to make way for the new eleven-story condo. "The 119-foot-tall structure will hold 21 apartments, along with commercial and community space," according to YIMBY. Citing the Schedule A filing, YIMBY reports that the "ground floor will have 464 square feet devoted to retail, a little 284-square-foot 'community center,' and the lower half of a duplex. Then the second floor will include the rest of the duplex and two other units. Between one and three units apiece will occupy the remaining stories, with a full-floor penthouse on the 11th floor." In all, we're talking 21 apartments divided across 35,959 square feet of residential space, which means potential buyers can expect spacious apartments averaging 1,712 square feet each. Not too shabby. 

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When a balcony is enclosed, the process can be as simple as nailing screens to a wooden frame or as elaborate as knocking down part of the outer wall to extend an extant room. Even the simpler of these two types can present safety issues.

"People do install screen enclosures on their balconies," says engineer Eric Cowley, principal at Cowley Engineering, "and the Department of Buildings (DOB) requires people to get permits for screens and divider walls" so that they're compliant with wind loads. And for good reason. 

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The average sales price for Manhattan condos may have slipped slightly in July, but that's not stopping them from rising all over the city. Just outside the Upper West Side's historic district, a 17-story condo building is set to rise. It replaces the garage between Broadway and West End Avenue. YIMBY, which snagged a first look at the development, reports that that 170-foot-tall building will offer 39 apartments spread across 100,194 square feet, which means average units will be approximately 2,569 square feet. As if the promise of space weren't nice enough, potential buyers will want to pay particular attention the floors 12, 13, and 14. Because the structure will be set back after the 11th floor, it will create "large private balconies for residents on the 12th, 13th and 14th floors." Nice, eh? 

Rendering of 269 West 87th Street by FxFowle Architects

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Broker Insights: Making the Deal Work

Written by Siim Hanja on September 10, 2015

New York City

The potential buyer's reported income is spiky, uneven. The board members have been told by the co-op's attorney to make choices based on the money he puts on the table, not on the charm he exudes with his Scottish accent. So what should they do?

My suggestion: think like a broker. You should try to make a deal — not squelch one.

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Warranty Issue: Is No One Responsible?

Written by Frank Lovece on September 10, 2015

New York City

 

Say your co-op is having some large equipment installed. Who bears the risk on contract? The engineer who designed the specs, or the contractor who is installing the equipment? If something goes wrong, you'd figure that it's the contractor's job to fix it, or that you'd be covered under the manufacturer's warranty. Yet that may not always be the case.

What happens if you're told that neither company assumes the risk if equipment is installed incorrectly or doesn't perform per spec and that you need to pay someone else to try again? It doesn't sound right to Scott Greenspun. A partner at the law firm Braverman Greenspun, he notes: "If the equipment is installed incorrectly, your recourse is against the contractor. If the equipment does not perform to specifications, your recourse is against the manufacturer and possibly against the contractor."

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It looks like a 154,000-square-foot luxury condo development is heading to Tribeca. Citing property records filed with the city early this week, The Real Deal reported that Related Cos. secured $200 million in funding from Bank of America for the development at 70 Vestry Street. "The Jeff Blau-led firm sealed two separate construction loans from the bank, valued at $161 million and $39 million, late last month. The funds will help Related develop the Tribeca site, which it acquired from Ponte Equities for $115 million last year," according to TRD. Unlike other developers who double their buildings' heights (or try to), there's been no move by Related to make the structure taller than 13 stories. No new renderings have surfaced since YIMBY got a first look in late July.

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Ever seen an enclosed balcony? "A balcony enclosure can be one of two things," says attorney Abbey Goldstein, a partner at Goldstein & Greenlaw. "One is you put up a simple plastic or other covering around it so when you go out you don't have to deal with wind and the elements. It could be screened — some people call that a 'Florida room' or sunroom. And the other is people making them into actual rooms. They'll knock down the walls and enclose [the area, so it becomes] an extension [of] the apartment."

Many co-op and condo owners in high-rises have such enclosed balconies and boards are now facing new questions. Among them: How do they fit in with required façade inspections? What are their legal status? What do they do to your building's floor area ratio (FAR), a measure of your building's maximum allowable use?

Here's the first of a six-part series that breaks down what you need to know:

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Watch Out: Some Banks May Try to Overreach at Closings

Written by Tom Soter on September 09, 2015

New York City

 

Beware: when a buyer closes on an apartment sale at a co-op — technically the transfer of shares from one party to the other — some banks are overreaching. They're requesting that they be listed as "additional insured" on the co-op corporation's insurance. Not only is this wrong, it could also create problems for the housing co-op in the future.

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Usually, when the subject of carpets at co-ops comes up, it's regarding a noise complaint and the 80 percent carpet rule. But in this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times, Ronda Kaysen fielded a different type of carpet-related question. Someone in Washington Heights asks, "Does New York City have any rules or regulations about shaking rugs out a window, or beating them in a courtyard? Could a co-op board object to the behavior?" Kaysen gets imput from Dov Treiman, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, who explains that the city has no laws about cleaning rugs. "But," he cautions, "if your co-op board decides that shareholders should not be slinging carpets out their windows, it might be able to adopt a rule banning the practice. It would depend on whether the building’s governing documents allow the board to change building rules. Check your proprietary lease and house rules to see if a restriction already exists." Kaysen does add some good neighborly advice, however. "You might irk neighbors living below you (or mingling in the courtyard) who would not appreciate a shower of dust raining down from above. So perhaps you should consider a less dusty alternative for your carpets, like steam cleaning," she writes. Remember, courtesy costs nothing and goes a long way to keeping the entire co-op community happy. 

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What Happens When You Face Construction Next Door?

Written by Bill Morris on September 08, 2015

New York City

 

The construction crane is, once again, the unofficial bird of New York City. As the latest building boom gains steam — with a flurry of new construction on empty lots, demolition of existing buildings to make way for new ones, plus additions to existing buildings — more and more co-op and condo boards are forced to deal with construction projects next door. 

The construction of a new nine-story luxury condominium building next to a five-story, 19th-century tenement in Manhattan provides a concise case study of what boards need to do and what they need to avoid — as well as the kinds of surprises they should expect — when an adjacent lot becomes a construction site.

Burying your head in the sand is not an option.

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Ask the Experts

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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