New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

What's the process for working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the New York City agency established to protect the city's architectural heritage shortly after the 1963 demolition of the original Penn Station? Here's a quick, handy summary. If you're in a landmarked building or district and your condo or co-op board is contemplating exterior work, print this out and distribute it to your board members so that everyone will have the basic facts. Trust us: That'll save a lot of time and questions.

Popularity is a funny thing. It can be the result of legitimate virtues or the byproduct of shrewd self-promotion. When it comes to hiring, firing, and promoting staff, co-op and condo boards need to know how to tell the difference. "If somebody is popular, it's usually for one of two reasons," says Steve Greenbaum, director of property management at Mark Greenberg Real Estate. "Either he's reliable, or he does people special favors. There are a million little things staff people can do. Boards need to ask: Is he popular for the right reasons, or is he just a schmoozer?"

It's not a theoretical question. The board at a 110-unit Brooklyn co-op learned the hard way that letting popular sentiment trump hard logic can have dire consequences.

It might not seem as big a dilemma as the need to replace windows or other big capital projects, but in terms of your apartments' market value and your building's first impression on visitors and prospective buyers alike, a dilapidated or out-of-date lobby can be a kiss of death — or at least a hug of disappointment. Yet as many board members know all too well, lobby renovation can be one of the most contentious and time-consuming projects in any condo or co-op board's tenure. It can seem like a task of unmanageable proportions.

But it's not. You simply need to do break it down into steps. Just make sure they're the right steps.

State and local bills have been introduced by legislators that would mandate that co-op boards given an answer on a prospective purchasers within a reasonable amount of time. In part one of this series, we laid out the issues; in part two, we looked at how such a program is working in Suffolk County. Here in part three, we hear what attorneys, co-op board members and others have to say about whether the law is needed, we track where these bills are at the moment, and we look ahead to some possible consequences of this proposed legislation.

New York City and State legislators have introduced bills that would institute timelines for when co-op boards have to reach an admissions decision, with one bill that would mandate boards either give a reason why they rejected a potential buyer or swear that the reasons for rejection were not based on discrimination. 

Are these reasonable? For a real-world example, we can look to Suffolk County, Long Island, which in 2009 enacted a co-op admissions law with both time clocks and required reasons for rejection.

Devicka Doobay figured she had a great shot at a $170,000 Queens co-op when she applied in 2010. Her credit score was well over 700, her income more than $66,000 and her only debt a car loan for $15,000. However, when she got turned down without even an admissions interview, she had the nagging feeling it might have had something to do with her name. "Everything was good, I had all the documents, and they wouldn't even give me a meeting," she says.

With the spate of mass gun killings over the past year, some condo and co-op boards are expressing heightened concern about weapons in their buildings. Part 1 of this series established that boards may prohibit gun-ownership since the Second Amendment applies only to the government, not privately held corporations. Part 2 examined the issues involved in deciding whether or not to prohibit guns. In this final part, we look at gun questions a co-op board can ask at an admissions interview, and what steps condo boards can take.

Hoarding is a mental illness, and condo and co-op boards need to treat hoarders with the same care and understanding as they would anyone with a mental-health issue. But that doesn't mean you ignore the safety, hygiene and vermin problems that hoarders bring about. Here are some tips.

After the recent mass-murder shootings at Sandy Hook and elsewhere, co-op boards have begun in earnest to consider gun control. Part 1 of this story established that boards may ask about gun ownership during an admissions interview and may prohibit gun-owners from becoming shareholders: The Second Amendment only applies to the government, not privately held corporations. In Part 2 we examine some of the issues faced by co-ops wishing to prohibit guns.

Utter the word "hoarder" to any New York City property manager or co-op / condo board and you're likely to hear the story about the resident who wouldn't stop collecting newspapers, trash or cats.

Dealing with these troubled residents — and make no mistake, we're talking about a mental illness over which they have little if any control; it's not just some eccentricity — can cost a building thousands of dollars in legal and cleaning fees and take years to resolve. The first step to dealing with it is to understand as best as possible the very specific nature of hoarders and hoarding.

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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