For board members and property managers of co-ops and condos in New York City, there are legal and financial questions regarding new and old laws, accounting rules, auditing, and so much more. Here’s what you need to know to manage your finances and speak knowledgeably with your accountant and attorney.
February 29, 2016
Your building’s monthly management report may be the single most important tool for keeping your co-op or condo on the right path. But who should be reading this crucial document?
While many boards pick one person to do the job, most experts agree that it’s better to share the load. The more eyeballs, the merrier.
February 29, 2016
At a co-op in Woodside, Queens, where the building’s electricity usage is included in the monthly maintenance, a shareholder complained that the board president burns a string of 40 ornamental lights on his terrace every evening and sometimes during the day. The co-op lawyer replied with a stern letter stating that the president is “not required to sit on his terrace in darkness.” What recourse does this unhappy shareholder have?
“Courts take a dim view of board decisions that are made in bad faith or with self-dealing,” real estate lawyer Andrew Bart tells the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times.
On the bright side, the board president’s ornamental lights are probably not driving up the co-op’s electric bill by much. Shared costs are a part of cooperative living, and there’s usually some inequity.
“Just as you may choose to watch television every evening or listen to music, your neighbor may choose to read,” says real estate lawyer Leni Morrison Cummins. “Life’s not always fair in a cooperative.”
Especially when it’s time to share the ConEd bill.
February 26, 2016
For the first time ever, New Yorkers say affordable housing is the most important problem they face, according to a new telephone poll conducted by NY1 and Baruch College. Twenty percent of respondents listed affordable housing as their top concern, followed by crime, jobs and the economy at 16 percent, and homelessness at 12 percent.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe they’re at risk of being priced out of their neighborhood in the next few years. Money provided little solace. More than half of the people who earn six figures – 53 percent – say it’s likely they’ll be priced out.
“Pretty much everyone thought they would be priced out of their neighborhood, everyone who’s under the age of 65,” Baruch College pollster Mickey Blum told Time Warner Cable News. “Even people who earn more than $100,000.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has set a goal of creating or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing in the next 10 years.
It’s not every day that New Yorkers turn down a cash offer of $130 million. For this reason, the Brooklyn Heights Association has bestowed its prestigious Good Neighbor Award on the shareholders of the co-op at 75 Henry Street, who last month turned down a developer’s offer for their commercial space that would have made each of them at least $120,000 richer.
“They listened to the concerns of their neighbors,” presenter Tom Stewart told Brooklyn Paper. “This award is given in recognition of their true community spirit."
Many in the neighborhood were concerned that Anbau Enterprises’s proposal to erect a 40-story condo tower on the co-op’s Pineapple Walk commercial site would block views, increase congestion, reduce property values and otherwise make life in Brooklyn Heights a little bit less worth living.
By a vote of 191-112, the shareholders at 75 Henry Street agreed with those concerns and turned down Anbau’s millions. Priceless.
Written by Marianne Schaefer on February 25, 2016
Every co-op and condo board in the city is in a perpetual hunt for the sweet spot: Low monthly maintenance plus a building that’s healthy fiscally and physically. When the board at the 1,728-unit Seward Park Co-op on the Lower East Side of Manhattan announced on Jan. 28 that they were hiring a valet parking firm to run the co-op’s 388-space garage and parking lot, they were “thrilled” to note that the change would keep parking prices below market rate, shorten the waiting list by increasing the number of spaces, and generate up to $200,000 in additional annual revenue. The board had hit the sweet spot, right?
Written by Adam Bulger on February 25, 2016
This month, Habitat Weekly is looking into a quartet of problems that bedevil co-op and condo boards. This week: disruptive residents.
It seems that every co-op and condo building has at least one: the bad apple, the shareholder or unit-owner who turns life sour for everyone else. Co-op boards have a powerful weapon in the battle against problem shareholders – eviction for objectionable conduct – but before going nuclear, boards should take three simple steps: study the problem, communicate their concerns, and document their actions.
February 25, 2016
Trinity Church, a fixture in downtown Manhattan since the late 17th century, has taken a step back from the real estate frenzy of the early 21st century. The Episcopal church, known for its commitment to community service and low-income housing, has scrapped controversial plans for a 30-story, glass residential condo tower at the site of its 90-year-old parish building.
Instead, the church tells The Real Deal, it will build 98,000 square feet of community spaces and offices at nearby 74 Trinity Place, including classrooms, gym facilities, a cafe and a meeting room. Historically, the church has offered services for the poor, the elderly, the chronically mentally ill, the homeless and others in need.
Of the church’s decision to scuttle the condo project, rector Rev. Dr. William Lupfer said, “Considering our numerous ministries in Lower Manhattan and our close ties to the community, a flexible office component makes more sense.”
February 24, 2016
In April of 2014, shareholders in the 146-unit Lindenwood Village co-op in Howard Beach, Queens, got the worst kind of news from their accountant. The self-managed co-op’s office manager had siphoned $88,000 out of the co-op’s coffers.
Before long, a group of concerned shareholders got control of the board. This is the story of how they cleaned house.
February 24, 2016
Synagogues are doing it. Churches and chunks of college campuses are doing it. So why shouldn’t a drug and alcohol rehab facility do it? What they’re doing, of course, is turning into luxury condos.
The latest building to join the stampede is Phoenix House at 164-166 W. 74th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a landmarked building that’s headquarters to one of the largest drug and alcohol rehab nonprofits in the country. Greystone Development and Prime Rok Real Estate bought the seven-story building last week for $26.8 million, The Real Deal reports, with plans to turn the 33,000 square feet of space into 14 luxury condos. Prices are expected to range from $2.3 million to $6.5 million for the duplex penthouse.
Architect Barry Rice has been hired to design the interior. The facade will remain unchanged since the building is in the Upper West Side/Central Park West historic district.
Phoenix House, meanwhile, will relocate operations to its other New York properties, including one at 2191 Third Avenue in East Harlem.
Written by Marc Luxemburg on February 23, 2016
The bylaws of many condominiums authorize the board of managers to impose fines for violations of the rules and regulations, and also authorize the collection of late fees for failure to pay the common charges on time. However, recent court cases have set limits on the amount of these fines and late fees, even refusing to enforce such a penalty if it is “confiscatory in nature.” Although there is no explicit law that defines the limits of what a board may charge, a board’s authority to determine the extent of the fines and late fees would seem to be governed by the Business Judgment Rule and not by a “reasonableness” standard.
Yet in the most recent decisions, courts have looked to the Criminal Usury Statute, Penal Law Section 190.40, which makes an interest charge of more than 25% per year a criminal offense.
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