New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Terms of Agreement

There was a civil war brewing at the Fieldpoint condominium development in the historic Westchester hamlet of Irvington. There are 158 units with two distinct (and not always compatible) types of housing: 95 are townhouses, while another 63 are detached single-family homes. To further complicate matters, Fieldpoint’s board combines one association that represents the single-family homeowners and two associations for the townhouses, which launched in 1987 and 1988 as Fieldpoint 1 and Fieldpoint 2.

Different types of housing can lead to different views on what is necessary to maintain your status as one of Westchester’s particular beauties, one that has been described in the New York Times as a place where “everyone blends together.” There was a division between the owners of its townhouses and the owners of its single-family units.

The cause? The maintenance costs for the association have increasingly reflected the expense of upkeep for the townhouses’ clapboard siding. Those costs were running from $80,000 to $100,000 each year, and the board calculated that it could come out ahead by replacing the clapboard with more durable and elegant masonry fronts; the savings in maintenance would in a very short period pay for the replacement. But the single-family owners objected: why should they shell out for something that wouldn’t go onto the sides of their homes?

Before a potential civil war could become uncivil, Michel Bryant, the former board president who is a lawyer and legal journalist, stepped in and offered the two sides a deal: the association would borrow the money to replace the façades for the townhouses. Then 75 percent of the cost would be paid by all the Fieldpoint residents while the remaining 25 percent would be assumed by the townhouse owners alone.

That sounds simple enough, but it still left the board searching for a highly unusual loan. The condo has no underlying mortgage, yet now Fieldpoint Community Association had to borrow roughly $2.5 million for the siding project. The board wanted to lock in the low interest rates, and it wanted the money doled out as needed for the construction costs.

To meet those very specific requirements, the complex’s manager, Prime Locations, run by two Westchester real estate industry veterans, Lloyd and David Amster, turned to Hudson Valley Bank and its senior vice president, Tom Szczepaniak, head of the bank’s Commercial Real Estate Group. Szczepaniak says that loans for commercial real estate and to co-ops and condos are the bank’s “specialty,” and that it aims to “customize to the needs of the borrower.”

Closing in September 9, the loan functions something like a line of credit, though also with aspects of a construction loan. Its rate is fixed, and during the first year Fieldpoint will pay only interest, not principal. These interest payments will be calculated based on the amount the board has borrowed at each point during the construction process, not the whole sum. Once that’s completed, the complex does not have to assume the total projected sum of the loan. The obligation will also transform into a self-amortizing loan – still at a fixed rate – covering the final 10 years of the loan’s 11-year borrowing period.

Fieldpoint includes a clubhouse with two swimming pools and tennis courts in a leafy town of rolling hills and meadows. Irvington’s past residents include 19th-century robber baron Jay Gould and author Washington Irving, for whom the town is named. Soon everything in Irvington will return to that welcome vision of harmonious rustic life it is advertised as providing. All that was needed to achieve this was some imagination from the board, its manager, and its lender – and some give-and-take among the unit-owners.

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