New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Is this a problem the co-op board has to tackle?

The job seemed routine — until the contractors came up with sand where there should have been concrete.

Called the Village House, this 14-story condominium was built in 1967 on an elegant block in Greenwich Village. It is a full-service doorman building with a live-in superintendent, a bike room, storage space, a laundry room, and a courtyard.

But the building had a history of leaks around the two terrace spaces, which sit on setbacks that wrap around the 12th and penthouse floors of the 75-unit red brick building at 60 West 13th Street. The terrace areas had deteriorated and water was leaking into the units, reports longtime board president Carol Butler. The board turned to RAND Engineering & Architecture, which had worked on the building previously, with jobs that included brick replacement, pointing, and waterproofing work.


Living next door to a fast-food restaurant (that delivers) may seem like a great idea at first. But then reality sets in: the noise, the vermin, the smells… Once the stench of grease constantly wafts into your apartment, the novelty of living next-door to a greasy spoon wears off. Take this co-op in Greenwich Village, for example. They tell Ronda Kaysen in this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times that after a hamburger chain opened shop in the building next door to them, several apartments smell like burned grease. "It's worse in the spring and summer when windows are open. Some of the residents approached the manager of the restaurant, who promised to install a filter on the ventilation. That was two years ago. We have filed complaints with 311, with no results. Do we have any rights?" Kaysen explains that this is a chance for the board to "step up and advocate for its residents…. The board could start by contacting the owner of the neighboring building and pointing out the obvious: There might be a problem with the restaurant's ventilation system. Perhaps the restaurant could (and should) invest in a new one — or at least install that filter the manager suggested two years ago." And if that goes nowhere fast? Well, the board can look into filing a private nuisance claim, points out Kaysen, adding one caveat: "[The board] would have to show that the restaurant's use of its property constitutes an unreasonable, intentional and continuous invasion of the co-op residents' property rights." 

Speaking of subletting a co-op apartment, check out this one couple's quandary. The pair want to sublet the place for a year while they are out of the country. The problem is that the building allows pets, including service animals, and the husband has severe allergies to animals. Should someone with a pet rent the apartment, it would mean having to professionally clean all the furnishings, "including Oriental rugs." They ask Ronda Kaysen in this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times what restrictions, if any, they may put on animals. Kaysen replies, "Just because your building is pet-friendly does not mean you have to be. Simply advertise your sublet as a 'no-pet' rental and screen prospective subtenants carefully. Include a provision in the sublease that clearly explains the rule and your reasoning." Of course, if a potential subtenant requests permission to bring along a service animal "as a reasonable accommodation for a disability," then the husband's disability — severe allergies — would factor into a court's decision. "If accommodating a pet would aggravate your husband's disability," explains Kaysen, "it is unlikely that a court would consider a request for a service animal as a reasonable accommodation."

Never Mind the Windows, A Board Upgrades the Boiler

Written by Tom Soter, with additional reporting by Kathryn Farrell on January 07, 2015

51 Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village, New York City

They would have preferred to have new windows before they got a boiler upgrade, but the seven professionals who were sitting on the board of the 95-unit co-op were not fools about fuel: getting something for nothing trumps a room with a view (even through new windows). Every time.

The saga started when the manager of 51 Fifth Avenue, Ellen Kornfeld, a vice president at the Lovett Group, alerted the board to a program Con Edison offers through its Oil to Gas Conversion Group. Simply put, as long as the building (1) is a qualified property converting from oil to natural gas; and (2) is requesting a "firm" (i.e., the building only burns natural gas) gas connection, the utility will bring in gas from the street to "the point of entry" (essentially, where the pipe connects with the building). All this depends on another factor, as well: whether the pipes in your area have sufficient capacity.

What does the developer of a high-end residential building do to sell an apartment in a condominium that is still being built? At the sales gallery for Greenwich Lane, a large residential complex being built in Greenwich Village where St. Vincent's Hospital once stood, they show potential buyers the Table, reports The New York Times, which describes it as "an 84-inch iPad on steroids." And it's been doing some heavy lifting. The Times reports that the Table helped to sell 100 apartments before the developer even had the chance to produce the first brochure. Just a tap and a swipe and voila! It's just one of the tools in a technological arsenal that developers across the city are leveraging to sell, sell, sell. As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and this technology is pretty impressive. Welcome to the world of tomorrow. 

Updated Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 — An attorney in Manhattan is challenging the legal foundation of New York City's efforts to prosecute short-term renters, saying the term "illegal hotel" is a misnomer without basis in law and that the City routinely condones unconstitutional warrantless searches and other questionable actions. 

Discovering that your co-op or condo has a ground lease — a real-estate instrument in which your cooperative or condominium corporation owns the building but only leases the land, usually for periods of up to 99 years — can be unnerving. Why? Because you have to pay a monthly ground-rental fee atop your maintenance or common charges and because ground leases can be detrimental to sales: Lenders don't like to offer loans when the building has, say, less than 30 years left on a lease.


What do you do when your building doesn't own the land on which it sits? 

Yes, that's a thing — it's called a "ground lease," a real estate instrument in which a cooperative or a condominium corporation owns the building but only leases the land. Usually it's for long periods of up to 99 years, after which, theoretically, the landowner can tell the board to move the building elsewhere. And in the meantime, your monthly payments include ground rent.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that his administration has taken enforcement action against two Manhattan building owners who are operating illegal hotels. This follows the release yesterday of a new report by the State Attorney General showing that nearly three-quarters of Airbnb's rentals in New York City are illegal, violating zoning and other state laws.

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