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fuel spill, advice needed - GK Dec 04, 2007


In October, there was a fuel spill (#6 fuel) in our building following a routine delivery. Even though the fumes seemed unusually bad, I didn't think too much of it at first because it's always obvious when a delivery has been made (and then the fumes quickly dissipate). But this time it was clear that something was amiss.

The fuel was delivered on a Thursday. The super was scheduled to leave on vacation later that day, but I saw him going into the boiler room late Friday evening, as I was leaving the laundry room; I assumed that if something was going on with the fuel tank he would know about it/be on top of it. In fact, I assumed that that was why he was going into the boiler room. Never assume.

The next day I started to feel sick: headache, nausea, etc. Talked to some other folks in the building who were also feeling sick. At least one person slept elsewhere for a few days. At that point I wasn't aware that a fuel spill had actually occurred; I'm no longer on the board, and the one board member I'm in regular contact with, the VP, was out of town. Which is unfortunate, because if he had been around after the fuel was delivered, he would have known that there was a problem and would have acted on it. It wasn't until he got back to the city the following Tuesday that the situation started being addressed/redressed.

A week after the spill, the BP put a notice in the elevator stating that there had been a fuel spill, but that no one had been able to do anything about it because the super was on vacation, and he is the only one with a key to the boiler room. So basically a full week passed before anyone got into the boiler room and started doing anything about anything.

When I was on the board, the boiler room key was discussed at virtually every board meeting. The VP and I both insisted that all board members should have a copy of, or at least access to, a key to the boiler room. As I've written previously, the BP, somehow, has created a situation where he is the only person who ever talks to anyone. He is the central hub through which all information passes (and gets distorted). So when the VP and I would suggest that the super should not be the only person to have a key to the boiler room, for practical and safety reasons, the BP would say: "Okay, I'll talk to the super." And then he would come back to us and say: "The super feels that by asking for a key to the boiler room, we are indicating that we don't trust him. He's very sensitive about stuff like that. I don't want the relationship with him to be difficult, so I'm not going to insist on the key issue." To which I responded: "Look, the boiler room is not the super's private property. This is a basic safety issue." Long story short, nothing was ever done and the super was the only person who ever had a key to the boiler room. And, we had a fuel spill and nothing was done about it for a full week. Go figure.

Eventually a crew came in to clean up the spill; during the cleanup the fumes got even worse. The BP slipped a notice under shareholders' doors stating: "Last week our fuel oil storage system failed. Apparently this system has operated for 40-some years past its useful life." Which sort of begs the question: why were we still using a system that was "40-some years past its useful life"?

This pains me especially because one thing I really hoped to accomplish while on the board was getting an energy audit for the building through NYSERDA. I was finding the process a bit daunting, frankly (and I admit I know almost nothing about boilers/fuel/fuel tanks, although I've been trying to educate myself), so last January I asked the managing agent if she could help with the application and get the ball rolling. She assured me that she was very familiar with NYSERDA and had helped other buildings get audits done. She seemed confident and I trusted her. Well, I kept asking for status reports and got evasive answers. She assured me that our application had been submitted. Finally I asked her point blank for a copy of the completed application for the board's records. She kept hemming and hawing despite repeated requests and I never did see a completed application. And then I stepped down from the board; I simply couldn't run again or stomach the thought of remaining on with the current BP. One of the biggest problems for me was that the BP and MA seem to have some sort of weird commitment to making sure that each stays in his and her respective position. It's impossible to get much done. The only things that seem to get done are what the BP and MA want done, and those things are fairly superficial.

So I have some questions (and gratitude for anyone who has had the patience to read this far):

1. Is it in the management company's purview to advise the buildings they manage on things like fuel tanks? The fuel tank has been removed from the boiler room and is now behind our building; it is completely rusted out! I imagine that even I, I who know nothing about fuel or fuel tanks, would have been startled if I had ever gotten into the boiler room and taken a look at that thing.

2. In his note to the shareholders, the BP states that "we are obtaining bids from companies for a new oil tank." Is it reasonable for me to expect that at last three sealed bids would be obtained and would be opened by the entire board, or at last a board majority? (In the past, the BP is the only one who has ever seen any bids from anyone; I have made some noise about this.)

3. I'm a bit concerned about the effects of the fuel spill on residents' health. I've been trying to do some research on it and it appears that a residential fuel spill over a certain amount, particularly if it goes unreported or unaddressed, can indeed have repercussions. One of the places I looked for information was the AG's site; it appears that in the event of a spill, a report needs to be filed and the spill needs to be assessed. I would like to find out how much fuel actually spilled. I don't expect an honest answer, or any answer frankly, to that question from the board. Is it on record anywhere and, if so, can I get access to that information?

4. A special shareholders' meeting has been announced by the board and is taking place tomorrow. I'm aware that at annual shareholders' meetings, minutes must be taken. Must minutes be taken at a special shareholders' meeting? I see nothing about that in the pl or bylaws. Is it reasonable for me to insist that minutes be taken? Is it legal for me to record the meeting?

Any feedback is appreciated, as always.

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answers:
1. Above Ground Storage Fuel Tanks are by code need to be:
a) vissually inspected daily (super)
b) a recorded of inspection and Fuel consumption and delieveries made need to be kept.
c) For number six oil, Storae Fuel Tanks are to be cleaned at least once every 5 years.

Now some one Super or Managing agent should know this. Again SHOULD KNOW but in reality most don't.

2. Who opens the bids are as a mater of customary up to the board to decide. In our building MA opens the bids. For large projects and an engineer is hired, then the engineer receives and opens the bids.
Its up to the board to decide who gets and opens the bids.

3. DEP regulations require that any fuel oil spill is reported to the spill desk at DEP. That's the law.

4. This question is beyond my relavent experience.
Pgrech

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Pgrech wrote:
". . . beyond my relevant experience."

Thanks a lot, though, Pgrech; already very helpful.

GK

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Pgrech wrote:
"1. Above Ground Storage Fuel Tanks by code need to be:
a) visually inspected daily (super)
b) a record of inspection and Fuel consumption and deliveries made needs to be kept.
c) For number six oil, Storage Fuel Tanks are to be cleaned at least once every 5 years."

One more question, Pgrech: you say "by code"--what code? Sorry if that's a stupid question. I'm just trying to find the exact wording so that I can bring it to the meeting.

Thanks.

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DEP codes/ regulations.

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Ah, thank you. I guess you sort of said that in your first response, huh? Duh. Sorry, I'm just not used to dealing with these things.

Thanks again.

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If the problem was at time of delivery, your super should have contacted immediately the managing agent, the board and the fuel company for immediate action.

Spills less than 5 gals may not have to be reported, but needs immediate action for removal.

AdC

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Thanks, AdC.

Somewhat vague accounting of the situation at this evening's meeting. Apparently the super did contact the managing agent immediately to report "a little spill"; the managing agent subsequently told the board VP that the boiler room was "ankle deep" in fuel oil. The VP asked the MA when the spill was reported to the state and got only the vaguest of responses. However, I spoke with someone at the DEC this afternoon and it seems like finding out when (indeed, if) the spill was reported will be straightforward. The DEC gave me the number of another office to call; I'll do so tomorrow.

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BP? illegal sublet dielma HELP - paddy Dec 03, 2007


a shareholder had an approved shareholder for 2 years and then snuck in an unnapproved person she claimed was her niece. this was overlooked for 2.5 years (we think she paid off the super) and then a shareholder started to complain. the tenant was removed with much foot-dragging by the board president. now: considering the shareholder not only lied that her tenant was a niece , and did not seek approval and did not pay the 25% fee she was supposed to - the question is: can the board retroactively charge her the fee - it is almost 3 years of fees totalling about $6500.??

to make it more outrageous there is a new tenant coming in and the board has been advised they cannot back-charge a fee and must say OK since the 3 years of illeglal renting "doesnt count" since they took no action for so long. this seems like VERY poor advice - anyone?? (I might add it only says that a sherholder is allowed to sublet for one year with special consideration for the second year and super special for the third...) I find this advice given the board/coop alarming.

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you mean had an approved tenant for two years - right? the dilema is: should the board ban this shareholder from any more subletting now that they are caught and also charge them backfees for the period of illegal sublet?

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WE NEED IT ALL.

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We just went through something similar... First: Read your house rules. Do you allow sublets?

We are now enforcing our house rules. Which, basically does not allow sublets -- except on a one year basis, for owners with serious needs (temp work transfers)

We are allowing legal sublets to run out and giving notice that they will not be allowed to renew the sublet. Some, that have sublet for years -- are going to be allowed six more months -- BUT ONLY -- if they pay past fees. So far, the prospect of having an empty apartment, trying to sell, as oppose to continueing the sublet -- everyone is paying up, and the ones who are not returning, are putting the apartments on the market.

A healthy coOp is owner occupied.





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Safety Bars on Windows - Board Newbie Dec 03, 2007


If a shareholder in a co-op has a baby after they have moved in do safety bars need to be put up on windows? Who bears the cost? Corporation or shareholder? Thanks, BN

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owners of multiple dwellings (3 apartments or more) in New York City to provide, install, and maintain window guards when a child (or children) ten years old or younger lives there. Tenants with no children - or none living at home - may also request and receive window guards if they want them for any reason.
(this is applicable to condo/cooops also)
the owner is responsible and may charge up to $10 for labor reimbursement. But is is the buildibngs responsibility to comply with the law.

You can read more here:
http://www.dhcr.state.ny.us/ora/pubs/html/orafac25.htm

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So is it the owner of the unit who pays for them or the co-op? I'm sorry but I'm not clear on what you're saying here. The link you provides mentions owners and tenants in rent stabilized apts. In the co-op, the shareholder is the owner, right?

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If I were you I'd put those bars up and then work out the co-pay arrangements with the shareholder.

Braverman & Associates http://www.braverlaw.net/article_12.htm and

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3601/is_n13_v40/ai_14636973

Richard Siegler, a partner with Stroock, Stroock & Lavan said the law is crystal clear....under city rules co-ops are treated as multi-family residential buildings, the board of directors acts as owner and is required to send out annual notices and supply window guards to anyone who requests them.

Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives, explained if a violation is placed on the building it would be joint responsibility. "A co-op has the full gamut of responsibilities that any other owner has," she said.

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Simply put, the building (coop or condo) pays for the purchase and installation of child guards in all apartments. The owner or share hold of that apartment that is geting the guards is charged $10 per guard installed.
Pg

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Thanks for the clarification.

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Wayne Bellet - Concerned Nov 30, 2007


Our management company is suggesting Wayne Bellet for an extensive exterior waterproofing project, we have heard that this company may not be the best, has anyone had a good or bad experience with them ?

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Why don't you contact Wayne Bellet and ask them for a reference of the last three projects they completed and then contact the buildings board of directors for a reference.

Good Luck

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I agree with Mike. Furthermore, you can call the BBB as well as NYC Chamber of Commerce. But, keep in mind most likely the references given to you, by any contractor, will be there best ones, which may or may not give a true and total picture of who the company is. Ask for 10 and then choose 3 or so and go to the building and check it out. Dont forget to call and make an appointment before going.


Pg

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We just did a large project with them on the UWS and did not have a good experience.

~AR

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URGENT: how to postpone annual shareholder meeting - 9449 Nov 29, 2007


I am a shareholder in a small low-income coop with an extremely corrupt board, where the board president has also been manager and building broker for over two decades.

The annual shareholder meeting has been scheduled for early December.

Throughout the year(s), there has been no board communication, misinformation or lack of information from the board of directors to shareholders. Important issues have not been dealt with and year after year the same people get elected and are controlled by this one person.

I want to know if there is a way to legally postpone the annual shareholder meeting because issues of importance have not been addressed, possibly getting outside help to educate the shareholders of alternatives. Who can I call upon for help?

I hope this question is clear. And thanks to all for any advice.

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The BP is also your managing agent? AND a RE broker as well?

What percentage of shares does he/she control?
How many members on the board?

Are you a new shareholder or been there awhile?

Other than your opinion, and the "look" of things, do you have proof the board is corrupt?

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RLM-

Below are answers to your questions, thank you!

Yes, I said managing agent as well as BP.

There were seven board members, the same people obviously. That is last year when I attended the annual shareholder meeting, although anything is possible and it could have dwindled down to 5.

This person owns their apartment, but controls the voting of many shareholders, some absentee, so things like proxy voting? Oh, it's a big mess with no accountability.

The Pres/Manager is NOT a licensed RE broker BUT has "brokered" out apartments, both sales and rentals. There are self-dealing, conflict of interest issues (sale of one apartment to children of an employee of BP/Mgr/Brkr's managing company (as person also manages a "market value" coop outside the building) also rentals to business associates, etc.

I am a longtime tenant/shareholder in a low-income HDFC coop, one of many formerly NYC owned buildings sold to us by the city at a very low price. These coops are rife with corruption.

I have served on the board on and off throughout the years.
A few years ago, I returned to the board upon several board members request and began to question “authority” and ask for transparency from this person. I became the lone voice of reason. Since then I have been punished. Two years ago I got frozen out of serving altogether, so now I am an “outsider”. The same people (one is VP) who beckoned me back, rolled over to the BP/Manager/Broker (out of fear or favoritism) and have backed his/her bullying, slandering, etc. against me. I have become the “disruptive shareholder” (the truth can be disruptive, I guess), ostracized and dealt with as if I am a crazy and physically threatening person. This one person has turned the whole building against me through their lies.

Yes, I have a paper trail that indicates that the board (most specifically this BP/Mgr/Broker) has violated their fiduciary responsibilities and sought to get me back for being a “troublemaker”. Board meeting recordings that indicate fraud. I have had to be my own investigator, legal researcher and advocate. The City of New York (Housing Preservation and Development) says there are hundreds of low income (HDFC) coops warranting a financial audit and yet they drag their feet.

Have gone to all the appropriate agencies, it's a vicious cycle. At one point tried to interest the BP/Mgr/Brkr in mediatiing with me.

The bottom line is that there is no accountability to be found in my coop and no advocacy from the outside. BECAUSE as the law stands presently THE BOARD RULES and has final say, not a minority shareholder.
I am of limited funds so it's hard to engage counsel, even though I've been told I have a case.

As last year's annual shareholder meeting turned into a tribunal against me, with our attending corporate lawyer fortifying the side that pays him, the corrupt board the thought of another night like that makes me ill.

I know this much...in a market value coop, this abuse of power (one person being Pres/Manager/Broker) is pretty much none existent or nipped in the bud pretty quickly.
In HDFCs it is rampant.

I'll keep trying to organize with other HDFC shareholders in the same boat and in the meantime will take some of the suggestions you have offered.

Thank you all for your responses. Keep them coming.

p.s.- Are there any pro-bono attorneys out there reading this, interested in assisting in any way?

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A annual shareholder meeting can be postponed if a quorum is NOT reached. A quorum is usually 51% of the shareholder body. If you encourage people not to hand in their proxy statements or attend the meeting, the quorum won't be reached and the meeting will be postponed.

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9449, I don't think you can postpone your annual meeting and if it's in early Dec, at this point you have no time left and it sounds like you're in for at least another year with the same corrupt board. But if you're really serious about this and act fast, you may be able to do some good.

YOU should run for the board and get others to run too. Try to get a new majority in so you can outvote the corrupt ones on issues. You're in a small coop. How small? If you have 12 apts, this is tough but with even 20-25 apts and a board of 5, all you need is you and 2 others to be elected.

If corruption has gone on for years, your Shs probably feel they can't change things and there's no use trying. You have to convince them otherwise - and that won't be easy. You have to be fired up in a positive way before you can get them fired up. You have to convince them that THEY are the ones who can turn things around by voting out corrupt board members and that YOU and the others who run will make changes that will make the coop better for all of them.

You have to take the ball and run with it. Start now and use the time you have before the annual meeting. At the very least, put pressure on the president and the rest of the board at the meeting - and don't let them sidestep you. Ask very pointed questions about when this will be done, why that hasn't been done, when they can expect whatever. If you haven't gotten an annual financial statement, ask why not and when you'll get it. If you did get it, ask the board questions about expenses, etc.

Here's an idea. You say that important issues have not been dealt with. Make a list of them, start talking to Shs now and give them a copy of the list. Tell them you're going to start working together and here is a list of things you all need to ask the board about at the meeting and get answers for. Tell them they can make a difference if they stick together. Just list issues simply on a sheet of paper. Get the momentum up. You and other Shs who agree to run for the board with you will probably have to stir things up at the meeting if people ask questions too timidly or if the board tries to bypass questions or bluff their way out of them.

There's a lot of things I could suggest and I'm sure others in this e-group will have many ideas too. But it looks like effecting any change has to start with you. I hope my post here is of some help.

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If a quorum is not reached, the meeting can be postponed for at least one week. Although that may not be enough time. Check your co-op's documents on proper protocol.

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There is more than one way..
"V" makes a good point...
the questions posed by the other members should be answered first however to determine your course of action... especially knowing if the PB/MA controlls the coop by owning the majoprity of shares, and what is the share ratio... how many agree with you, vs the BP.

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Read your Proprietary Lease and Bylaws. They may give you an idea. For example, look to make sure the meeting was called with enough advance notice, as per your documents. If not, then you might have grounds to delay it.

Request a copy of the shareholders list, and write all of the shareholders asking them to 1) not show up and 2) not submit proxies. That way, no business could be done at the meeting anyway b/c there wouldn't be X% (often times a majority) of the votes present necessary to hold it.

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Voting in elections - V Nov 27, 2007


Is it a crime to tell shareholders who to vote for in upcoming co-op board elections or to tell them to change their votes. Something like that seem very unethical to me.

Thought?

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When I told my largest shareholder to vote for me; and in exchange, after the election I would let his wife and kids out of the duffle bags and set them free, they yelled and threatened me.. I don't know why.

Of course it is not ethical.
[just in case... the above is only a dramatization to display a point!]

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while i agree about not being ethical, the question was more about it being a crime.
Lastly if someone asked who should they vote for or if i had recommendations then i would reply, but i never offer my opinion with out being invited to do so. That would make it at least ethical.
Pg

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Your right...
While I do not believe it to be criminal, I personally cannot answer if it is illegal or not. unfortunately unethical and illegal are not synonomous.

~AR

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It is only a crime if you vote for them and they do a lousy job. I hope you are not suggesting for one minute that these fine people are running to serve their own self interests and not the Coops. Oh God, never.

FN

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I loved the first part of your answer FN.

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Perish the thought!! LOL!! I never allow other people to tell me who to vote for but unfortunately some self serving board members keep getting re-elected and various shareholders have been harassed to change their votes by former board members. What can those harassed shareholders do, if anything? The elections are over (THANK GOD!) and some idiots did not get re-elected. But some did. SIGH!

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It is difficult to answer or provide you with a straight answer on this one:

1. Who is asking you to vote for John Doe?
2. When is the person asking to change your vote?

Ask yourself if the Teachers'Federation does well to endorse a candidate, or if a well-known individual asks TV viewers or radio listeners to vote for John Doe.

Perhaps you may tell me,"ask" is not "tell". However, "telling" is not "cohersing" or "directing".
and it is not the equivalent of a pre-printed ballot.

Finally, "in the land of the free" I cannot think of intimidation when someone tells you to vote for John Doe and that someone does it because he/she is told.

More detail on this one is required to give a definitive answer on this one!

AdC





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Do you receive an annual proxy voting form?

Does the form not suggest (nee recommend) who the current board would like added to the board by name?

Enough said.

Now the unethical part that I can contemplate is that a board member is privy to the proxy returns and deduces that a shareholder has cast a ballot for other than the preferred candidates. Now the board member or shareholder uses this information to ask one or more shareholders to change their vote.

On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with asking a shareholder for whom they voted and if the response is other than the one that is our preference then lobbying the shareholder to modify his or her ballot.

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It seems everyone is agreed that it is definitely not illegal; however, the moral or ethical aspect of this is creating a variance of opinion.

While Ted makes a good point, and I am sure many share the belief that there is nothing wrong with asking someone about their vote, I believe that anything that creates question of immorality, may very well be, and thus should be refrained from. (not referring to a pre-election lobbying)I also believe that once the election is complete, no one has the right to know how anyone voted.

When I hold elections in my buildings, only myself and a neutral third party counter are aware of who voted for whom. I recently had a Board member (who was voted in again) ask me to see the final ballots the day afterwards so he can see who voted for whom. I informed him that this was unethical and I will not permit it (was hard to do as a paid manager). While it did get a little heated, the rest of the Board backed my decision with regard to this. Had I disclosed the information, who knows how he would have used it against the people who did not vote as he wished.

Anyway, what I am saying is.. at the end of the day it's left-right-center so go with your own convictions and you will most probably be right (no pun intended!).

~AR

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Some other instances if you wish to be concrete:

1. Promising personal benefits to individual voters as a result of being elected, i.e., jumping the parking waiting list, maintennance reduction, etc.
2. Promising specific agenda for the buildings contrary to the common good, i.e., lifting sublet restrictions, reducing or holding maintenance in spite of higher costs.
3. Cohersing - slashing tires of cars of individual shareholders if...

Yes, your point is good - after the fact investigation of votes should not be permitted. In fact, I would rather lie in your case by saying that the tally of votes was eaten by the dog or used in your charcoal grill than giving it out.

Again, the problem is not vote solicitation, but how it is solicited including actions that accompany the solicitation.

AdC

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We destroy the proxies very soon after the election after the ballots are certified by the tallier.

Public corporations destroy proxies; we do too.

Less chance for litigation, more expensive for a challenge.

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I keep hearing different things about how you can submit a proxy (not here, from coops/boards I personally know). Must you receive a proxy with a Sh's original signature on it, or can you accept a proxy submitted by fax or e-mail?

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Since a corporation is a legal entity, I would submit this by way of resolution that is blessed by your legal counsel. Through this chatroom you can get the pulse of how elections are viewed; so, you need to ensure that your process is legal.

(1) Generally, a fax image is considered a substitute of the original in the absence of the original in a court of law. After all, a fax image is as good as a photocopy, i.e., the fax cannot be electronically manipulated to provide you a third document (yes, almost anything today may be manipulated electronically by scanning).

(2) An e-mail of "me" stating that I empower "you" to be my proxy representative is a NO as no signature is associated and anyone may get on your machine and send the message. However, a jpeg file of the executed document sent via e-mail may served as a substitute to the original. Possibly, you will have to retain the source (jpeg and e-mail note) to show the nature and the source of the document in a court of law.

AdC




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Has anyone ever used an online voting system? We have trouble getting a majority of the shareholders (incl. proxies) to even hold a meeting. If we want to amend the Proprietary Lease or Bylaws, we would need even more. We think an online voting system might attract more voters.

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What makes people NOT VOTE???

If they don't use a a self-stamped envelope (which we have used in the past), I don't think they will do it via phone or electronically. (The analogy is the news given on a rolling monitor; it needs to be read - so, if you do not read the paper, chances are that you will not be motivated to read a rolling electronic monitor).

I think part of the problem is a basic word, "KNOWING". Yes, knowing you have responsibility as a citizen,if in in a democracy, to vote for our representatives or knowing that a shareholder has responsibility to vote the shares.

Probably, you have shares of companies, mutual funds, insurance, or even credit unions. They send you proxies all the time. My question to you, "What do you do with this material?".

Obviously, we want to reap dividends, obtain market growth, etc., but who runs the company - WHO CARES!!! What are the proposals on the table at the annual meeting- WHO CARES!!!.

Interesting enough, great social justice developments in South Africa were the result of shareholders involved in corporate voting. However, the common individuals buy or commit their small wealth to types of investments they do not know and do not expect to know. So... WHAT's the difference with a Co-op???

AdC







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Restaurant Odors - BN Nov 22, 2007


There is a rental building with a chinese restaurant whose kitchen door faces the rear units in our co-op. For many years we have been calling the restaurant owner and the managing agent complaining of chronic--we're talking 7 days a week cooking smells that permeate our rear units all the way up to the roof. The guy that owns the restaurant uses his back kitchen door to vent the 12 hour a day stench, shareholders call him, he says he closed it-for 5 minutes, then opens it again. City inspectors are useless--one comes over and says he has a cold and can't smell anythng! Any suggestions how your building may have solved a similar problem short of legal action? Would a formal letter from our Board or managing agent to the managing agent of this building faciliate any resolution?

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In addition to looking at the apartment, 2 other things a buyer should look for is a restaurant and a bus stop.

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Anon (no anons) please.I think the person is looking for a solution here?

Bob

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If you have a managing agent, talk to him/her, because property managers tend to have a lot of experience to draw upon. If those solutions don't work, try your lawyer -- I'm NOT suggesting legal action. That's a last resort. But your lawyer may have a good suggestion. He/she may even be able to point to a law the restaurant is violating, and help you write a letter from the board (not from the lawyer) pointing this out. Then, if there's no action, send a letter to the city and cc the restaurant. That's my top-of-the-head advice.

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It is up to you. If you believe that you have made all the good faith attempts to solve this issue without success, then call 311. Not sure if it is a DoB, DoH or DEP issue but i am sure 311 operator will direct you call to the approperate agency.
Pgrech

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incentives to run? - need participation Nov 21, 2007


Who can think of, or has successfully used, incentives to convince more residents to serve on the board?

Some ideas I've heard:

--Term limits (to break up entrenched boards);
--requiring a certain term of service as a condition of membership, or levying a fee in exchange for non-partipation;
--paying nominal honoraria;
--Waiving a month of MT fees.

Our boards tend to attract mainly people who want something; we've had incidents of board members harrasing their neighbors, self-dealing and outright theft.

The smart people seem to steer clear, refusing to serve, and sometimes moving rapidly away.

How can we turn this situation around?

I know many buildings have faced similar issues.

--Need (smarter) participation

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The best reason I've come up with to encourage shareholders to run for the board is this:

PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT!

For most people, and certainly for me, one's home is the biggest single financial investment we make. As if New York apartment prices aren't high enough, add the cost of the interest on a mortgage and you have a truly huge amount of money tied up in your apartment.

Serving on the board means you decide how to maintain it (replacing old pipes, repairing aesthetic damage like, saving money for future expenses) and how to improve it (buy things with a short warranty or pay for a longer warranty? establish uniform and fair methods to enforce house rules). You decide where the money goes, and how much to take in.

Other reasons:
-- Living in NYC we're lucky in that our apartments appreciate in value nearly without exception. Want to make it worth even more? Improve the building (facade, boiler, elevator), improve the financials, and give people a reason to want to live there.

-- Buying into a cooperative means you really ought to cooperate, and help each other out, even if it means serving a year on the board.

-- Those who serve even one year on the board end up knowing much more about how the building & business run, and what the co-op's possibilities and limitations are. In my own experience, nearly everyone who "retired" from the board in our building no longer complains about the building -- because they know what it's like to be on the other side, trying to resolve those complaints.

Not everyone will want to serve on the board even in the best of buildings; don't badger these folks. Focus on the ones who are fair, polite, and open to alternative points of view.

If you have a dishonest board, you may need to run a slate against them. But don't feel that's the only way. Get a couple of good people to run, and encourage them to campaign.

Let me comment on your other ideas ...
-- Term limits. Fine, but remember that you'll have to find people to fill the forced openings, and that one day you'll force out really good people. (One way around this is to limit terms of offices -- pres, treas, sec -- but not to the board itself.)
-- Requiring service. It's probably not legal, and even if it were, that would mean forcing people into something they won't contribute to. And it means that nutty neighbor with 17 cats or the all-night partier will end up deciding what's best for you.
-- Paying a nominal honorarium/maint fee abatement. Paying is dicey only because it gives people the wrong motivation. That said, waiving one month's maint fee (at the conclusion of a full year's service) would help some of us feel better about the hours of time we volunteer in the service of our neighbors.

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respect
acknowledgement of service
time off for good behavior

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Thank you both for these thoughtful responses. We'll see!

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There is no way to motivate any participation unless the person has a call within...

Unfortunately, many organizations that were vibrant in the '70, '80 and '90 are DYING a slow death due to lack of participation.

I belong to two chapters of professional organizations that have or are contemplatng to fold up due to lack of interest... When seeing this, I just realize that our co-op is no exception. After all, we are living in the same age. In fact, I just got an annonymous from (you may use any qualifier you want, it just fits the character) because of a typo in an announcement. However, the person is not able to make it to an annual meeting, the person is not able to commit his/her name, the person is just not even correcting in kindness - it's just trying to hurt me!

Interesting enough you are not alone when it comes to participation. People just want a get a share of market...

Count the good ones, and keep plowing... as in the last 30 minutes of the Indiana Jones movie, an old knight says to Indy, "You chose wisely..." This is the bottom line; don't expect to get the crowds, but just the gems.

Good luck!

AdC


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Reserve vs Capital vs Operating Funds - ABB Nov 13, 2007


I went to the CNYC conference last weekend and to the treasurer sessions, and I'm still a little confused on the different accounts we 'should' have and the purpose of each. My understanding: 1. operating fund (not a lot of excess in here, basically a checking account for regular expenses) 2. Reserve Fund (3 - 6 months of operating expenses as a hedge against emergencies) 3. Capital Reserve Fund: based on your 5 year plan for upcoming expenses and major repairs (boiler, elevator, local law #11, etc) or major initiatives (new roof garden, gym, etc).

Is this breakout what most people are doing? Do you then also have separate savings accounts or CDs or something for a portion of these funds so you're earning some interest within each of these funds (except Operating)?

Advice/guidance/sample splits and targets appreciated!!

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Perhaps they were trying to tell you that, in addition to a certain amount of reserves that should be estimated for emergencies, you should have your capital fund. The cash reserve should be layered in the form of CDs and T-bonds maturing in such a way that you will have enough funds to take care of the emergencies, plus your money to take care of your long-term plan. Similarly, you will not plan all the major capital expenditures to be taken care every 5- or 10-years, i.e., your boiler replacement, your roof replacement, your underground tank, window replacements, etc. These will be staggered and probably, you may have a capital work every year and your investments should be in line with your plan in order to have cash on hand to pay for these.

So, in builidng reserves you should not only take care of the long-term capital plan, but emergencies by doing an add on to the amount that you need to build.

Finally, all reserves are equal. You will use the money from whatever maturing account you have in order to retire your debt whether it is an emergency or a planned capital improvement. The point is always make a contingency fund for emergencies which should be in accordance with the size of your building and the general coniditons of your facilities and equipment.

AdC

AdC

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Perhaps they were trying to tell you that, in addition to building capital reserves for major projects, you should earmark a portion of these reserves for emergencies. In other words, if you think that you should fund your long term capital fund with $100,000 a year, you should add $10,000 for an emergency fund for a total of $110,000. If you do not use the emergency fund that year it keeps growing. In this way, you stay on course to do your capital replacement even when you had taken money to address emergency situations.

The reserves in the form of CDs and T-bonds should be layered to provide flexibility and enough funds to take care of the emergencies, and your long-term plan. Similarly, you will not plan all the major capital expenditures to be taken care every 5- or 10-years, i.e., your boiler replacement, your roof replacement, your underground tank, window replacements, etc. These will be staggered and probably, you may have capital improvements every year according to an outlined plan. Therefore, your your capital funds should be in line with your plan in order to have cash on hand to pay for these according to the schedule.

So, in buildng reserves you should not only take care of the long-term capital plan, but emergencies by doing an add on to the amount that you will need to build.

Finally, all reserves are created equal as the color of money is the same. You will use the money from whatever maturing account you have in order to retire your debt whether it is an emergency or a planned capital improvement. The point is always add on your captital fund for emergencies which should be in accordance with the size of your building and the general coniditons of your facilities and equipment.

AdC

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Thanks, but I AM confused about the color of money! I thought they were saying that if you segregate capital funds from regular (anything non-capital), there are benefits to the shareholders. Benefits like increasing the tax basis of their apartments so when they sell, the technical profit, and tax, will be lower. And also (maybe, I wasn't clear on this) that the building can apply for J51 credits for cap improvements. But, you have to tell shareholders up front that a portion of maintenance or the assessment, or however you're funding, is for capital improvements and then you would have keep that money separate from other funds to get the benefits (tax basis, J51 credits). And, your managing agent or accountant, would have to keep track of the maintenance or assessments earmarked for cap improvements.

If we don't have to keep it separate by account, it all becomes somewhat easier and clearer. But, if you don't keep it separate by account, you just indicate on reports which funds in the reserve are for what?

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You ought to have a meeting with your independent accountant to go over the best way to maximize your tax basis, etc. Also, the comptroller of your management office may provide you some guidance with regard to accounts, etc.

Your operating is kept in your checking and, sometimes, depending on collections and when you pay your bills, you may have a CD associated where you can sweep your account and call from it as required in order to maximize your interest.

Obviously, your reserves are kept separately and only tapped when necessary to do strictly capital, even in emergencies. Unless I don't know what you mean for emergencies, i.e., a major unexpected leak that forces the co-op to spend $50,000 to replace with enhancement of your parking roof (just by way of example).

Your operating budget should be as solid as possible to cover all your expenses during the year. The fact that some builidngs keep the maintenance artificially low and assess to cover deficits may be a problem if you are doing assessments to build reserves and at the same time patch deficits.


In our case, we have three accounts: the operating, a tax escrow to accummulate the surplus during those months in which we have no payments to do, then reserves. We flow monies from escrow to operating and viceversa in order to pay our taxes and insurance. However, the reserves are kept just for major emergencies and capital repairs.

AdC

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I don't mean CD but money market for an account to flow back and forth.

AdC

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Maintenance Poll - Larry G. Nov 11, 2007


Are you raising maintenance this year?

If so, by what percentage?

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Larry I am doing a lot of things this year, Now please can you elaborate so we can respond.

FN

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Are you, as board members and managers of cooperative housing corporations, who are likely undergoing your budget process for 2008, likely to put forth maintenance increases to be paid by your corporations shareholder for the upcoming fiscal year 2008?

If so, then what percentage over your current maintenance charges are you likely to raise maintenance?

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Each building is different depending on the budget from the prior year. For instance, some of my buildings i budgeted enough to account for rising cost in the 08 year, some we did not.

On average (in most of my buildings),
~fuel is up, and now (today)announced and expected to top $3.00 per gallon on #2 oil - a 17% increase over my last years year end average (these numbers many differ from my other post)
~Insurance is increased 3% (not too bad)
~Water & Sewer is up 11%
~RE Taxes are up, but we are promised a decrease?? (For budgeting purposes ignore the promises and budget up 8%
Salary - up 3.5%

lets average them to 8.5% together,
given these expenses are 70% of the total budget, would give me a mandated 5.95% increase to maintain this years financial stability.

therefore, if you did not budget the extra 6% last year, you should increase this year, and take into account next year, unless you are like many buildings that opt to raise every year by a standard inflationary number.
Some buildings will raise every to years and assess a fuel cost assessment if needed to balance out.
Either way is good - unlike years ago where buildings were not wanting to raise maintenance because they thought it looked bad to potential buyers and banks; I believe buyers and banks are more understanding of the changing times, and we have to change with them. There is alot more instability in the markets nowadays and it is more acceptable to review and revise your maintenance and budget year by year. I believe it better on the shareholders as well.

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We raise yearly costs to shareholders every year by a percentage between 3 to 4%. The rational is that the shareholders become acclimated to an increase very year. Heaven forbid we skip a year and then because of some quirk, we need to raise maintenance by a double digit value. It would be pandemonium. Our assessment has remained constant at about $6 a share for several years. Prior to three years ago, we raised the assessment at the rate of $.25 a year to finally arrive at $6. Now our 45 year old coop building and property with 500 units and 160,000 shares garners about $960.000 a year for our capital improvement program.

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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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