Lynn Van Den Hende, president of her co-op board in Sunnyside, Queens, has been facing a difficult issue for years. In defiance of court rulings, the sponsor of the 52-unit building still owns 32 units and holds two seats on the five-member board.
Habitat: What is the current situation with your sponsor?
Van Den Hende: Last year, new buyers moved in above me. They installed a washing machine, which is against the house rules because it strains the pipes. We told them to remove it. They refused. They got fined. They did a renovation. They gave us the proposal for the renovation, and they left off the fact that they had moved a gas line and took down a wall. We said that it had to be inspected. They had to pay for that. They were very angry.
We found out later that the sponsor had started courting one of them – a woman – to run for the board. The woman went around campaigning. We talked to our shareholders and said, “Please don’t let the sponsor get control,” because if this shareholder was elected, the sponsor would in effect have three seats, because she would be doing whatever he wanted.
Habitat: What’s the real issue?
Van Den Hende: The sponsor doesn’t want to sell apartments. He wants control over the board and a lot of people don’t understand that such control is against their best interest.
Habitat: Are you thinking about a lawsuit?
Van Den Hende: Yeah, because he’s not selling apartments.
Habitat: What happened with the election?
Van Den Hende: We won, even though the sponsor threw all his votes to her and one other candidate. He then contested the election and said that she should be on the board. Nothing came of it.
Habitat: It’s such a highly politicized situation. How do you cope?
Van Den Hende: It’s horrible, horrible. There have been a lot of problems with people getting financing to buy, and to refinance. Banks will not lend to us anymore because we have so many sponsor apartments.
The sponsor basically wants us to do what he wants us to do, not what’s best for the building. In situations like this, I think shareholders need to be united and stick together for the common good. That’s really important. They should also understand how a co-op works.
Habitat: What would you like to see happen in your building?
Van Den Hende: People should step up to the plate and start taking notice and get involved because a lot of people think, “Oh, I don’t have the time.” I don’t have the time, either, but I do it anyway.