New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

LONG ISLAND

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, they do love their cigarettes in Queens, a Long Islander may face eviction for burning the wrong kind of firewood and Petey the Pig's "parents" are trying to sell their co-op apartment and fine a more swine-friendly place. There's a Harlem co-op / condo expo April 6-7. And where the wild things aren't is in the late Maurice Sendak's co-op, now up for sale. Plus, for condo and condo and co-op boards, we've advice on mediation.

True story: Shareholders at one Manhattan co-op voted down a referendum that would have required them to buy homeowner insurance. Then one day some water pipes burst, the building's insurance didn't cover all the damage, and the board had to issue an assessment to make up the difference. Shareholders who had homeowners insurance got reimbursed by their insurance companies for the assessment amount. Those without had to pay out of pocket. And the next time the board tried to require homeowner insurance — the shareholders voted it down again!

Guess you can't insure against shortsightedness. That notwithstanding, condo and co-op boards still may want to mandate that unit-owners and shareholders carry insurance, as many buildings already require. But how?

 

In a major shift welcomed by co-ops and condos battered by superstorm Sandy, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will now allow residential cooperatives and condominium associations to use disaster-relief funds to repair buildings' physical plants. Previously, condo and co-op boards were ineligible for grants but could obtain low-interest repair loans from the Small Business Administration.

 

On October 29, Superstorm Sandy bore down on Lido Beach Towers on Long Island, unleashing its wrath on the 184-unit condominium complex. The first floor was overwhelmed by a 15-foot storm surge and five feet of sand. The water reached the ceiling tiles. All the mechanical equipment housed on the ground floor was destroyed, along with numerous ground-floor apartments.

But the upper levels were largely spared despite the building's beachfront location. Although no one can live in the six-story condo because it lacks heat and running water, all of the apartments above the ground floor are sound. The condo board says its 2002 decision to overhaul the Lido's façade is the reason the vast majority of residences did not suffer damage. The $18 million project had the unintended consequence of making the exterior sturdy enough to withstand the might of a hurricane.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a Long Island co-op struggle to finance common-area repair, not covered by FEMA, after superstorm Sandy; a condo super in Greenpoint risks blowing the place up; and rich folk got dem pied-à-terre blues. For co-op and condo boards, we've two tales of illegal hoteling — both with hilarious, albeit nefarious, behavior by the apartment owners. Plus, the latest amenity: onsite well-being programs.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, FEMA extends the filing deadline for homeowners, including co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners, applying for grants, some nervous neighbors at a co-op jump to conclusions, and a condo-owner has an overhead problem in the form of a heavy cell-phone tower. Plus, for co-op and condo boards, the tax-abatement renewal bill has passed the New York State Senate. Now will it get through the Assembly?

 

In the terrible aftermath of superstorm Sandy, co-op and condo boards and residents found themselves struggling with both immediate needs and longer-term woes. With lobbies, basements and other common areas flooded and in need of repair and reconstruction, with electrical panels destroyed and with buildings not collecting maintenance or common charges from uninhabitable apartments, many boards are understandably overwhelmed. But federal help is available. Through conversations with government agencies and others, Habitat is here to you get through a flood of misinformation.

The president of a roughly 160-unit Long Island co-op complex is incredulous. “There’s a website where you can buy a kit that ‘certifies’ your dog as a companion dog. It comes with an ID, looks very official, it has a little vest for the dog so it mirrors a service dog” like trained seeing-eye dogs. “So you call up, say I’d like to get my pet certified, fill out the form, send in the check. Do I need documentation? ‘No.’ So anyone can do it? ‘Yeah.’”

When the wind and rain of Hurricane Irene whipped across the Ocean Harbor View Apartments, a 56-unit co-op in Freeport, New York, on August 28, 2011, the massive storm did more than get the property wet: it flooded the laundry room and damaged three out of the eight machines within. It was not long afterwards that the seven-person board of the cooperative — located at 494 South Ocean Avenue and built in 1950 — decided it was time to turn a disaster into an opportunity. The room would be completely renovated.

The savings can be significant. Last fall, Cooper Square Realty, which manages 600 properties, pooled 250 of them to buy electricity from an electricity service company. So, instead of buying 500 kwh of electricity for a single building, the company shopped for 130 million kwh. Individual properties saved between 9 and 20 percent on electricity costs.

"You get a better pricing structure because of the volume," says Cooper Square president Dan Wurtzel. His firm hopes to eventually bring all its managed properties into the new plan.

Buying in bulk also works for capital improvements. Five years ago, Fairfield Properties offered six of its properties the opportunity to convert to natural gas. By bundling the projects together, the company reduced the upgrade costs. The five properties that agreed to the offer are each saving about $100,000 a year on heating costs, says Alvin Wasserman, director of Fairfield.

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