New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



An estimated more than 900 co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners gathered at a Queens forum and an adjacent movie theater's simulcast on April 12 to protest what they and politicians call an inequitable property-tax system, which taxes co-ops and condos at a far higher rate than any other residential property.

... the Sheffield condominium's male prostitute is getting evicted, but not for, like, a month, and there's visiting-dog trouble at a Riverdale co-op. For co-op and condo boards, we have another case of going out of your way to make life hell for older residents, and an expert says a co-op board president can let his cousin sublet longer than other shareholders can.

As a native Californian, Scott Miller says recycling is in his blood. So, it made his blood boil whenever he would see plastic laundry detergent jugs tossed into the trash bins in the laundry room at his Lower East Side co-op.

"The recycling area was just around the corner, but without signage and without an opportunity to make it easy to recycle in that area, it was all just going into a landfill," says Miller, who lives at the 1,728-unit Seward Park Cooperative.

It was one of the things that led him to volunteer last summer to take part in the Apartment Building Recycling Initiative, a two-hour program offered monthly by the city's Department of Sanitation (DSNY). There he learned about quick and often free fixes that can increase the amount of recycling and ensure that the proper things are going into recycling bins.

Committees are an invaluable tool in condominium associations and cooperative housing corporations, where it can be hard to get enough volunteers sufficiently capable of dedicating the time, attention and skills required to serve on the board. As well, since it's often effective to have a small board, having committees can extend the board's reach, ability and effectiveness. This allows the benefits of a smaller board without sacrificing the distribution of workload that comes with a larger board.

... condo secrets in Brooklyn, a Manhattan condo sets a record asking price and how low can mortgage rates go? Find out!

... a court rules against a Queens co-op that tried to evict an elderly couple when the asthmatic, severely allergic wife needed a disallowed air conditioner in order to, you know, breathe and live. Also: How to prep an apartment for sale, what to expect from brokers in 2012, and how condos are becoming like co-ops when it comes to admissions.

"Noise complaints are the bane of our existence," says Maryann Caputo, president of Tribor Management, which manages some three dozen co-ops and condos, mostly in Queens. "I'd rather have any problem other than a noise complaint."

They may be intractable, but noise complaints between neighbors are not insoluble — provided condo and co-op boards understand the nature of the quagmire they're getting into. And how to get out of it.


1.  Standardize your collection process

One of the easiest problems to avoid in collecting payments is the issue of selective enforcement. Condo and co-op boards sometimes give greater deference to owners they like or for whom they feel sympathy, and eagerly pursue owners they see as troublemakers.

Unfortunately, this approach creates two problems. First, it sets up a legal defense that the co-op / condo rules are not being applied uniformly. Second, it promotes the idea that if you have a good enough excuse and stay out of trouble, the board will let you slide on paying.

Condo and co-op boards are taking a variety of steps to address budgetary shortfalls. A survey by the Community Associations Institute finds that about half nationwide have increased common charges or monthly maintenance, and reduced contributions to reserve accounts. Many have deferred maintenance of common areas and postponed capital-improvement projects. And about a quarter or less have reduced professional costs or management fees, borrowed from their reserves or levied special assessments.

Given all that, here are some pro-active steps every co-op / condo board should consider.

In the bizarre world of the Department of Buildings bureaucracy, a phantom stop-work order can continue to exist even after it has been resolved. And woe to the co-op or condo board member who tries to get it removed.

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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