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Co-op and Condo Group Resists Mandatory Smoking Policies

Bill Morris in Legal/Financial on August 17, 2017

Riverdale, The Bronx

Smoking Policy
Aug. 17, 2017

There is a short stack of legislative proposals before the New York City Council and the state General Assembly that seek to change the way co-op boards determine who buys into housing cooperatives. Some of these proposals would limit the amount of time boards have to notify a potential purchaser that his or her application is complete; others would limit the amount of time boards have to accept or reject a completed application; and others would require boards to provide their reasons for rejecting a purchase application, something they are not currently required to do. Co-op advocates have spoken out, vociferously, against the proposals, arguing that they’re unnecessary impediments to the conduct of co-op board business, which is, in their opinion, largely expeditious and free of discrimination.

Now before City Council is a new bill, called Int. 1585-A, that would require all city co-op and condo boards to adopt a smoking policy and distribute it to all residents or post it prominently on the premises. If smoking is banned, the bill sets penalties for violators, ranging from a minimum of $200 for a first offense to a maximum of $2,000 for a third offense within a 12-month period.

Though the bill would not require boards to ban – or allow – smoking, co-op and condo advocates are once again speaking out, vociferously, against what they see as an attempt to usurp boards’ authority.

Stephen Budihas, president of the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums (ARC), which represents 130 Bronx buildings with 17,000 apartments, has sent a letter to city councilman Andrew Cohen, a Bronx Democrat, and other elected officials, outlining ARC’s opposition to the proposed legislation. The letter ends with a blunt opinion: “Co-ops and condos do not need any governmental intervention or direction in the establishment of their rules. There is no need for Int. 1585-A.”

“We all understand that smoking is dangerous, but that’s not the issue here,” Budihas tells Habitat. “Now, for the first time, legislators want to force boards to establish a particular rule. To tell a board they must have a rule is opening a door I don’t want to go through. One of the reasons co-ops and condos exist is because each building is an entity unto itself, with its own personality. And that’s fine. That’s the way the residents want it to be. People choose a particular building partly because of the rules – say, because they own a dog and they know that the building is pet-friendly.”

Int. 1585-A was co-sponsored by four Democrats – Ritchie Torres and Rafael Salamanca of the Bronx, Vincent Gentile of Brooklyn, and Ben Kallos of Manhattan.

Budihas believes the bill is an echo of the city and state bills that are seeking change the way boards handle purchase applications. “The bills are very similar,” Budihas says. “They want to restrict the authority and power of boards. We don’t think the state or city should be telling co-op and condo boards how to manage their own buildings.”

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