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LEGAL/FINANCIAL

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.

Earlier this year, the developer behind the condo conversion of Dumbo's 10 Jay Street won over the Landmarks Preservation Commission with a design that paid tribute to the building's history as a sugar refinery. It used glass pieces in the façade to represent the crystal-like shine of sugar. It was certainly a step away from the usual glass and steal high-rises or the Jenga towers proliferating in neighborhoods like Tribeca. So it's kind of a bummer to hear that plans for the unusual building have been scrapped. According to The Real Deal, the developer plans to keep the "warehouse as a commercial property, citing rising demand in the Brooklyn office market." All may not be lost, however, at least aesthetically speaking. TRD reports that the developer will keep the ODA New York-designed crystallized façade, "but instead of converting the warehouse to 46 condos, it will now market the building’s approximately 200,000 square feet for office and retail uses." At least those of us who never had a chance of snapping up one of those condos will still have something pretty to look at. 

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The Wallace Avenue co-op is filled with ordinary people who just wanted to have a home of their own. Michael Williams is typical. In 1990, Williams, a contract administrator for the city, moved into the recently converted co-op with his bride. He was elected to the co-op's board, on which he would serve in various positions over the next dozen years. He felt right at home in a building that's solidly middle class. His neighbors didn't have bottomless pockets, but they were working people — teachers and nurses, with a few lawyers and doctors as well.

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Not every new condo construction looks like a Jenga tower. Just check out the Landmarks Preservation Commission-approved condo building rising at 130 Seventh Avenue South in the West Village. YIMBY reports that that the 7-story structure now boasts a teaser site, a new address (175 West 10th Street), and a new rendering. Moving away from the cold glass and steel high-rise model, this building has a traditional red-brick façade with a modern twist: it's "broken up with large, irregularly spaced sets of windows." The ground floor will be retail space, "topped by four stories of floor-through condos, and then a penthouse duplex for the sixth and seventh floors. Each apartment will measure about 2,500 square feet." Very nice. If you're wondering about the sticker price, it's too soon to tell, but sales are expected to launch early next year, and work is expected to finish in fall 2016.

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Having a condo association rent out a foreclosed apartment isn't necessarily a new strategy. But veteran real estate attorney Marc Schneider, a partner at Schneider Mitola, has a suggestion that is rare and far from routine, according to attorneys and managing agents surveyed, who say they hadn't encountered it before. The board tries to cut an "early bird" deal with the bank. This means that, instead of waiting two, three, or more years for its own foreclosure to finish, it could make a deal with the condo after the condo had foreclosed.

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Imagine a three-bedroom apartment that's been newly renovated from two-bedrooms, taking up the same space but with gleaming new floors, a state-of-the-art kitchen, improved lighting, and enough new electrical outlets to satisfy the most high-tech home. Yet the apartment-owner pays lower maintenance or common charges than the owner of an older, non-renovated three-bedroom in the same building.

Can that possibly be right or fair? And what if a disgruntled neighbor claims those renovations happened without board approval, either because the board didn't know or turned the other way? What happens then?

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Arguably, one of the cooler aspects about New York City is its 1920s-era buildings with their exquisite detail. The old bank buildings are especially lovely. In the ever-changing landscape of the city, some of these old buildings get converted into condos. Other times, however, a building such as the imposing structure on Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, becomes a casualty of supply and demand. The former Green Point Savings Bank building at 856 Washington Avenue will be demolished to make way for a 14-story apartment building, reports DNAinfo, citing permits approved by the city last week. If you're a fan of old buildings, then hurry to get a photo because building and property records show that the neoclassical stone structure will be ripped down soon. The new residential property will include 28 condominiums over about 45,000 square feet, according to DNAinfo, with one floor-through unit on each of the top three floors. Sounds nice, but it's still disappointing news to fans of old buildings and to those who were holding their breaths for a Trader Joe's grocery store.

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One Reason Why Alteration Agreements Are So Important

Written by Carol J. Ott on October 14, 2015

New York City

 

"One of the things that makes a gas-out harder is [when] alterations have been done," says John Devall, the Orsid Realty manager of the 354-unit Vermeer at 77 Seventh Avenue in Chelsea. The Vermeer co-op had its gas shut off in October 2014, and has been spending months getting each line and riser tested and then turned on.

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Is your co-op board flexible enough to adapt when a self-employed person — with fluctuating annual income — applies for a sublet?

Many co-op boards have strict procedures for vetting prospective subletters. Conventional requirements include a W-2 income tax form (for one or more years), credit and criminal background checks, a letter from the previous landlord, bank statements, and personal and professional letters of recommendations. As a final hurdle, sublet applicants who are deemed worthy usually have to appear in person for an interview before the board's sublet committee or the entire board.

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Condos are a bit like rabbits, aren't they? You start with a couple and before you know it, they start popping up everywhere. That's been the case in Rego Park — once a distinctly middle-class Queens neighborhood with its apartment buildings, multi-family and railroad houses, and commerce. Starting in 2000, but especially since 2010, prices in Rego Park have been climbing with the influx of young professionals. And gentrification in this once affordable neighborhood has been building significant momentum. Take this new 7-story condominium rising only one block away from the 63rd Drive-Rego Park subway station. It's only the latest project to pop up in the neighborhood, says DNAinfo, adding that "the 23,398-square-foot building, at 97-30 64th Avenue, will include 23 condo units." On that same block, just a month ago, another condo — Great Stone Tower — was completed. "Prices in that building, according to real estate listings, can surpass $700,000 for a two-bedroom apartment," reports DNAinfo. Over in the following block, "another developer, Kenny Liu, is also planning to build a new 7-story 50-unit condominium building at 97-45 63rd Drive." And of course, there's the upscale condo, featuring Manhattan-style amenities such that include a gym, rooftop garden, and bicycle room, being built at 65-38 Austin Street.

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The effectiveness of biannual meetings depends on how well the board understands their purpose: discussing, not deciding. Although such get-togethers are for informational purposes only — the residents are not there to decide on anything, just to learn — it does give them an opportunity to ask questions.

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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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