New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

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ARCHIVE ARTICLE

The Electeds

Margaret Chin
District 1, Manhattan Soho, Noho, Tribeca, Washington Square area, South Village, Battery Park City, Wall Street area, South Street Seaport area, City Hall area, Little Italy, Chinatown, Lower East Side
As the City Council member representing District 1 in Lower Manhattan, I am proud to serve the Financial District, Tribeca, Soho, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. The district is home to some of the oldest immigrant enclaves in New York City, and the influence of Italian, Chinese, Irish, and Jewish cultures is felt to this day. Although District 1 has been the site of intense building and development over the last 30 years, our ethnic neighborhoods have withstood the test of time. The air feels different in Lower Manhattan. A visit to this neighborhood can be like stepping back in time. You can visit a 100-year-old knish bakery on the Lower East Side, or take in the historic ships moored at the Seaport. You can visit Chinatown to celebrate the Lunar New Year and Little Italy for the Feast of San Gennaro. Not only do we have more landmarks and historic districts than anywhere else in New York City, but District 1 is the site of some of the most interesting development projects in the country, including the World Trade Center site, the Fulton Street transit hub, and the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. Lower Manhattan is a place where the rich history of our nation is never far from its future. This is also true for our housing options. The growth of the condo and co-op market in Lower Manhattan over the last 30 years is remarkable. This has made our neighborhoods more stable and less transient, and enhanced the “small town” feeling that our residents treasure. Young families are moving into new condos and putting down roots next to some of the oldest and most established cooperatives in our city. In Soho and the Lower East Side, we have longtime residents and pioneers who stood by their neighborhood in the 1960s when no one else wanted to live there. In the Financial District and Tribeca, we have a growing population of young people and children. What we all share in common is the belief that Lower Manhattan is simply the best place to live in New York City.

Daniel Garodnick
District 4, Manhattan Upper East Side, Central Park South, Grand Central, Tudor City, Waterside, Peter Cooper Village, Carnegie Hill, Stuyvesant Town, United Nations; part of Yorkville, Turtle Bay
Co-ops and condos have provided a consistent and stable ownership structure for people to own their homes in New York City, particularly in my district. The representatives on co-op and condo boards deserve great credit for the hours of painstaking work they put in to protect the interests of their fellow owners. Many even go beyond discussions of maintenance charges and finance issues to lead the community on important issues and provide a public forum that amplifies their residents’ voices. For instance, the Upper East Side has long had some of the dirtiest air in New York. This is largely because of old buildings that still burn dirty No. 6 heating oil. Recognizing the problem, a number of co-ops and condos in the area have been leading the charge to go green by changing the infrastructure in their buildings so that they can use cleaner natural gas or No. 2 heating oil – truly acting locally while thinking globally. The benefits of homeownership in this context has whet the appetite of residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, a community of more than 30,000 residents in the southern end of my district. It is seeking to accomplish the largest condo conversion in history. When I attend tenants association meetings and hear residents speak about why they are attracted to the effort, their remarks invariably include aspirations to have a say in how their neighborhood is run. They see their future ownership and board as the best way for them to have an impact on their own quality of life. I agree – and will not only support them in the effort, but also stand ready to assist the many other existing co-ops and condos in my area.

Jessica Lappin
District 5, Manhattan Beekman, Sutton Place, Upper East Side, Yorkville, Roosevelt Island; part of Turtle Bay, Carnegie Hill
Co-op and condo boards are made up of dedicated volunteers. These residents, who put in countless hours to better their buildings and blocks, are also often outspoken activists on important civic issues. For instance, within my Manhattan City Council district, many residents and businesses are suffering from the impacts of Second Avenue subway construction. That’s why more than a dozen co-op and condo buildings have banded together to work with the MTA, local elected officials, and others to mitigate the disruption. I have also seen co-op and condo boards in the East 50s tackle the placement of a water tunnel shaft and take on noisy bars. Farther north, I’ve worked for years with concerned boards that are actively fighting the plan to build a garbage dump at East 91st Street and York Avenue. I applaud the boards that rally their tenants around these and other issues. Thank you for your efforts, and I look forward to working with you in the years ahead to make our neighborhoods and city stronger.

Gale Brewer
District 6, Manhattan West Side 54th to 96th Streets
Who lives in Council District 6, which runs from West 54th Street to West 96th Street, from the Hudson River to Central Park? The population in 2012 is 164,000, an increase of 2.2 percent from the 2000 census. The breakdown: 72.7 percent white (slight decrease from 2000); 5.3 percent black (over 10 percent decrease); 11.1 percent Hispanic (3 percent decrease); and 8.5 percent Asian (over 43 percent increase). Our community still has a large number of rent-regulated apartments and thousands of units of New York City Housing Authority housing, but the numbers are dwindling. In a neighborhood of increasing wealth and shrinking diversity, we face a shortage of affordable housing. Affordable apartment ownership made the Upper West Side a great neighborhood. But the end of the Mitchell-Lama co-op program and the rising cost of purchasing in Manhattan keep families from buying apartments and establishing roots. Growing middle-class families need larger quarters but cannot find affordable two- or three-bedroom apartments. These groups are key to stable neighborhoods. They anchor schools and local businesses, are active in civic matters, maintain a high quality of life, and push for good pre-kindergarten to 12th grade public schools, another area of concern. An additional challenge is the lack of support for seniors who want to remain in their homes; we need to expand naturally occurring retirement communities, or NORCs, of all kinds, so as to retain our diverse, engaged older adults who are major supporters of local stores, public transportation, cultural institutions, and medical facilities. Upper West Side co-ops and condos have thrived with the help of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums. Co-op and condo owners are a big part of neighborhood life. Owners contribute leadership and creativity to community boards, PTAs, and non-profits. Above all, co-ops and condos act as small villages, forging friendships, bringing families together, and creating a mosaic of committed residents whose importance reaches far beyond their own walls.

G. Oliver Koppell
District 11, The Bronx Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Woodlawn, Norwood; part of Bedford Park, Wakefield, Bronx Park East
I represent Council District 11 in the Bronx. My district includes a number of relatively distinct communities with residents of different economic status, race, and ethnicity. My district includes Riverdale, a middle- and upper-class community with a very large number of cooperatives and condominiums. Most of these buildings were converted from rentals in the last 25 years. My district also includes Kingsbridge, a middle- and working-class community that has a substantial number of co-ops, including several large co-ops that were converted from Mitchell-Lama rentals. I also represent Norwood, Woodlawn, and Wakefield, which have relatively fewer but a nonetheless significant number of co-ops. The co-op conversion movement has been a very positive force in the communities that I serve. The condition of buildings converted from rentals has materially improved as a result of resident ownership. The older buildings that were constructed as co-ops or condos have remained solid anchors. The co-ops and condos in the less affluent areas of my district are among the most well-cared-for and desirable residences. Co-op owners are also less transient than rental tenants. They are more likely to be involved in community activities and organizations. Overall, I believe that co-op conversion and the construction of co-ops and condos have been a major reason that the neighborhoods I serve have remained attractive and desirable for families of every income group.

Fernando Cabrera
District 14, The Bronx Fordham, Kingsbridge, Morris Heights, West Bronx
While most residents in my district are not co-op or condo owners, these forms of housing represent an important component of the district’s profile. I represent New York City Council District 14, where 68 percent of residents are Hispanic, 24 percent are African-American, 3 percent are Asian, and 2 percent are Caucasian. The median household income is $26,000, and 92 percent of residents rent their homes. Overwhelmingly, the chief concern of my constituents is access to safe and affordable housing. Forty percent of all visitors to my office visit with a housing-related concern. These are composed of safety concerns, housing conditions, and affordability issues. To this extent, co-ops and condos provide a ray of sunshine for my community by affording residents homeownership opportunities. As a condo owner in District 14, I can attest to research findings that show homeownership as a tested means to address neighborhood decay and increase social capital – social connections among neighbors that are associated with decreased crime. For instance, Fordham Hill has not experienced a single crime in the last few years. Homeowners have a concrete stake in their communities and as such, take care of their neighborhoods. Co-ops and condos are anchors of economic and social stability.

Joel Rivera
District 15, The Bronx Part of Fordham, Belmont, Bathgate, East Tremont, Bronx Park South, West Farms, Bronxdale, Van Nest
The 15th district in the borough of the Bronx is home to a diverse population of residents from many different backgrounds and income levels. Over the past three decades, the population of Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and other minorities has grown gradually. The creation of co-ops and condos was also in areas that benefited low-to-moderate-income families, thus allowing tenants the opportunity to become homeowners in neighborhoods that were primarily rentals. Participants under the Mitchell-Lama developments like Dennis Lane Apartments and Kelly Towers, both located in the Crotona area, and Lind-Ric apartments in the Pelham Parkway area are examples of our strong diversity and of community interconnection leading to economic growth. While my district continues to steadily strengthen its neighborhoods and communities, Bronxites appreciate and take advantage of all the hidden gems around them. Part of our backyard includes Little Italy of the Bronx in Belmont, the Bronx Zoo, the third-largest outdoor shopping district in New York City on Fordham Road, and Crotona Park, where we host the Bronx Tennis Classic, outdoor movie nights, and concerts that locals and tourists alike visit. The sum of co-ops and condos may not match that of other parts of the city, but to those lucky homeowners of co-ops and condos such as myself in the 15th district of the Bronx, they have plenty to be proud of.

Daniel J. Halloran
District 19, Queens Northeast Queens I represent the northeastern Queens neighborhoods of Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, Little Neck, Whitestone, Flushing, and Auburndale.
My constituents are primarily middle- and upper-middle-class working people. Northeast Queens is a uniquely diverse part of the world. We have a large Italian-American community, especially in Whitestone; a large Jewish community, primarily in Bay Terrace; a sizable Greek community, based in Auburndale; and a large Asian-American community, of primarily Korean and Chinese descent, based in Bayside and Flushing. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg – we have every ethnicity under the sun here, and we’re proud of that diversity. We’re all New Yorkers and we all have the same concerns – good schools, livable neighborhoods, safe streets, and a high quality of life. My district features a number of condos and cooperatives, including but not limited to Bay Terrace, Clearview Gardens, and LeHavre on the Water. Thanks to these and the other co-ops and condos in northeastern Queens, thousands of middle-class families have been able to stay in our city when they would have otherwise been priced out. I often say that co-ops are the last bastion of the middle class in New York City. That’s why I’ve worked to reduce the extraordinarily high assessment values of co-ops, which have resulted in middle-class homeowners being forced to pay obnoxiously high property taxes. Without thriving co-ops, we won’t have a thriving middle class. I’m a proud member of the Co-op and Condo Caucus because I’ll fight with my colleagues to preserve co-ops and the stability they provide to our city’s housing stock.

Mark Weprin
District 23, Queens Hollis Hills, Queens Village, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Bellerose, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park, Hollis, Hollis Park Gardens, Holliswood, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens
I represent the 23rd Council District in eastern Queens, a largely residential middle-class community with many homeowners, including a significant percentage of co-op (and a few condo) residents. The area, known for its outstanding public schools, city parks, and safe communities, attracts people from around the globe who want to be part of New York City’s vibrant economy and reside in neighborhoods that offer an excellent quality of life. My father was the president of a co-op, and my parents started our family there. As so often happens, the co-op where my parents chose to live offered a comfortable, affordable home in a safe and stable community. Over the past half-century, the co-ops of eastern Queens have continued to serve as places where young people begin their adult lives, parents rear children, and seniors retire with peace of mind. After my election to the New York City Council, I founded the Council’s Caucus on Cooperative and Condominium Housing in order to draw attention to the unique needs and interests of co-ops and condos across the city. Since its inception, the caucus has advocated on behalf of and alongside the co-op and condo residents its members represent. In particular, when the Department of Finance issued outrageous and unjustifiable real property tax assessment increases last year, the caucus successfully partnered with co-op and condo leaders, securing a cap of 10 percent on increases. Our advocacy on this issue will continue until co-ops and condos have true equity in the real property tax system.

Daniel Dromm
District 25, Queens Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, LeFrak City, Corona, Rego Park, Woodside
I have the honor of representing one of the most diverse districts in our country. This diversity presents challenges but also creates opportunities for model living arrangements that can provide an example for other communities. Co-ops in particular have played a key role in the history and development of Jackson Heights. In the United States, the concept of co-op apartments began in Jackson Heights, which made the neighborhood a model for co-op development across the city and nation. During the 1910s and 1920s, the Queensboro Corporation purchased huge tracts of land and created Jackson Heights, which was the first garden city community in the United States. From day one, this community included co-op buildings that have greatly influenced development in the area. Part of Jackson Heights’s appeal was that it offered a refuge from “city living.” It remained a middle-class neighborhood until the 1980s, when economic and social changes presented a new set of challenges. During that time the neighborhood struggled with negative influences from the drug trade and with tensions between longtime residents and new immigrants moving into the area. Since then the area has successfully re-established its middle-class roots. Over the last three decades, co-op apartment buildings have played a key role in supporting our thriving immigrant communities. Co-ops provide affordable, quality living spaces that promote community stability. People who buy co-ops also want to invest in good schools, green space, and safe streets. Having all of that in place makes Jackson Heights ideal for any family, but especially for immigrant communities who want to put down roots. Despite the decades of changes, it remains an extremely desirable yet hidden treasure within the city of New York.

Karen Koslowitz
District 29, Queens Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens; parts of Maspeth, Richmond Hill, Elmhurst
I have the honor of representing Council District 29, encompassing Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, and parts of Maspeth, Richmond Hill, and Elmhurst. I am proud to represent such a diverse district composed of working families and middle-class New Yorkers. It is my priority to address all the major issues facing my constituents, including quality of life, education, and senior services issues. Over the past three decades, co-ops and condos have helped my district both economically and aesthetically. The tax benefits and ownership rights associated with co-ops and condos make it possible for hard-working New Yorkers to own property in this great city. In the 29th district and throughout the city of New York, co-ops and condos have also brought New Yorkers together by creating further unity in our communities. Through the governance of each condo or co-op, owners within these properties are able to voice their opinions and govern their communities democratically. Condos and co-ops help residents get involved, and this translates to a deeper sense of responsibility, pride, and commitment to the surrounding area.

Stephen Levin
District 33, Brooklyn Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint; part of Williamsburg, Park Slope, Boerum Hill
I represent the 33rd district on the New York City Council, which includes the neighborhoods of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill, and North Park Slope. I am proud to represent a diverse economic, ethnic, and religious constituency. I have learned during my time on the Council that the diversity of my district is what makes it so special. We have housing that includes thousands of New York City Housing Authority tenants and large cooperatives in downtown Brooklyn, and we’re seeing the rapid growth of high-rise condominiums along the waterfront from Brooklyn Heights to Greenpoint. Concord Village and Cadman Towers are examples of co-ops with thousands of units in downtown Brooklyn. The residents there are good public citizens and keep me apprised of issues important to the neighborhood, especially with regard to transportation in Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn. I also am proud to represent the beautiful co-op at 75 Livingston in the heart of downtown Brooklyn. This beautiful, historic building is home to some of New York’s most dedicated owners, who have gone to great lengths to preserve their building to the highest standards. These co-ops contribute to the high quality of life in my district, and I am honored to represent them.

Letitia James
District 35, Brooklyn Clinton Hill, Fort Greene; part of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant
Almost every area of downtown Brooklyn is seeing them – some are historic buildings redeveloped with a nod to their former prestige. Some are big loft-style developments with fitness centers, media rooms, and private space meant to woo the Manhattan native. One thing, however, cannot be overstated: these cooperative and condominium developments are in high demand. Downtown Brooklyn’s development boom is an exciting thing for all Brooklynites, and more and more families are choosing the convenience of apartment ownership over a single- or multi-family home. For my part, I am deeply invested in making sure that these developments include opportunities for low- and median-income residents to become homeowners. Atlantic Terrace, a development project completed by the Fifth Avenue Committee, was part of HDC’s affordable cooperative apartment lottery, offering 18 affordable units. In the last few years, Pratt Area Community Council has developed 11 affordable homes in Clinton Hill as part of the city’s program to restore defaulted 203(k) properties. It has also worked on a 16-unit mixed-income condo in Clinton Hill and the gut renovation of tenant-owned co-ops through the Department of Housing Preservation & Development’s Third Party Transfer program. These projects have offered many existing residents a chance to purchase property in their community, guaranteeing that they will never be priced out. Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Prospect Heights will continue to develop into economically and culturally diverse communities. I welcome this diversity, and I believe that projects like these keep that diversity in mind. I look forward to working with these housing organizations to identify sites that can be redeveloped into affordable condos and co-ops.

Brad Lander
District 39, Brooklyn Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Boro Park
Co-ops and condos are at the heart of the Brooklyn communities I represent: from the stately historic co-ops of Cobble Hill, to converted Old Law tenements in Park Slope, to restored warehouses along the Columbia Street waterfront, to new buildings housing Orthodox Jewish families in Borough Park, as well as long-time residents and growing immigrant communities in Kensington. I’m very pleased that the neighborhood includes limited equity co-ops – some of which I helped to create as the director of the Fifth Avenue Committee – which offer an affordable homeownership option to families who would otherwise be forced out by high housing prices. These buildings help us preserve the diversity that makes Brooklyn a great place to live. The 39th district is two-thirds white, with growing Bangladeshi and Latino communities in Kensington. The brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods of course have many young professionals and families but also continue to have many seniors, as well as families that have been here for generations (like the Italian community in Carroll Gardens). Many co-op and condo owners are among the remarkable set of community leaders here who advocate for safe, affordable, sustainable communities with good schools, safe streets, and vibrant commercial strips, parks, and libraries. As a charter member of the council’s Co-op and Condo Caucus (established by my colleague, Councilmember Mark Weprin), I am committed to working to address ways in which government can be a positive force in meeting the particular challenges that co-ops and condos face – like rising property tax assessments, historic district requirements, and compliance with new green laws and codes. Together we can foster a coordinated approach to public policy and neighborhood planning that is inclusive of all housing types and helps to preserve the co-op and condo buildings that add so much to our community.

Jumaane D. Williams
District 45, Brooklyn Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands; part of Midwood, Canarsie
The 45th district is a diverse middle-class area that has a great number of single-family homes as well as larger apartment complexes such as Flatbush Gardens. It is primarily a Caribbean-American constituency, but there is also a significant Jewish population as well as a student community from Brooklyn College. Co-ops and condos also call the 45th District home, and their tenants are a valuable addition to our community. For many New Yorkers, co-ops and condos are the easiest pathway toward the goal of homeownership. Many of their residents possess unique skills from the management of their buildings, skills that are transferable to helping organize the larger community toward our larger goal: making the 45th District a safe place for our young people to learn and grow. Co-ops and condos have also served at times as miniature laboratories for progressive reform, such as green energy and sustainable development. We at the City Council can learn from these examples to see how to best lead New York City well into the 21st century.

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