The Meter is Running
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Hard-won lessons from 2020 that you can use in 2021.
AUTHORWilliam D. McCracken
With 2020 finally behind us – a painful year that taught us all some hard-won lessons – it’s time to focus on the future. While the pandemic is far from over, there is light at the end of tunnel, and in the spirit of optimism that 2021 will not be overwhelmed by COVID-19 the way that 2020 was, I submit a few modest proposals for co-op and condo board members to consider:
Take a breather. On top of the personal difficulties we have all faced during the pandemic, board members have had to bear the added burden, stress and occasional heartbreak of trying to protect all of their neighbors and staff from the virus. Now that vaccines are available, let us hope that after several more months of discipline, board members will be able to get a respite from their pandemic responsibilities. They have certainly earned it.
Embrace change. No one would wish to operate a building under pandemic conditions again, but we have learned some valuable lessons. For example, we learned that virtual annual meetings and board elections can work successfully. While in-person meetings are preferable in many ways, we found that most virtual annual meetings were surprisingly well attended and smoothly run. If permitted in future years, a virtual annual meeting may make sense for buildings with, for example, a high number of nonresident owners. Annual meetings aside, virtual board meetings can be an appealing alternative for buildings that otherwise would hold their meetings at the offices of their managing agents or at some other site.
Raise the bar. In addition, boards also will have learned a great deal in 2020 about their management company, contract vendors and other professionals. If your building’s team rose to the occasion last year, there is little doubt they’ll be able to meet tough challenges in the future; if the team fell short, resolve to find ways to improve their performance in 2021.
Get back to business. With any luck, co-op and condo boards should have time and energy in 2021 to devote to initiatives that were overshadowed or put on hold by the pandemic. Tops on the list should be compliance with the Climate Mobilization Act. This law aims to reduce New York City’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 by imposing, among other things, mandates for the installation of green or solar roofs on certain buildings and caps on carbon emissions beginning in 2024. Buildings that fail to meet the caps face stiff financial penalties.
Don’t delay. The City Council passed an amendment to the climate law in 2020 that applies the carbon emissions caps to many buildings that had previously been exempt. For New York City to meet its ambitious carbon-emission goals on time, it will take another heroic effort by boards and management, not to mention their energy consultants, engineers, architects and contractors. All boards should resolve to start planning as early as possible to comply with the demands of this sweeping law.
William D. McCracken is a partner at the law firm Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer.