New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. A co-op board is rightly skeptical of a claim that no possible antidepression treatment even exists other than a dog. A starchitect's building in Brooklyn comes without a trash room, and the city says it's legal — but still tickets the condo for, well, not having a trash room. Manhattan condos are selling strong, but co-op bargains are to be had in the Heights. And for co-op / condo boards, a discrimination lawsuit still stands, but its lawyers don't.

It often feels as if whatever we're experiencing as board members can't possibly be true elsewhere — no one would believe the work, the responsibilities and the decision-making entrusted to volunteer laypersons. Yet you're not alone — others understand. Mary Fran, co-op board president of the 387-unit Park Terrace Gardens n the Inwoodsection of Manhattan, certainly does. In part two of her year-in-the-life diary, the head of this five-building complex's nine-member board details what she and her compatriots struggle with at their monthly meetings. You can probably relate.

In the final entries of co-op board president Mary Fran's 2013 meeting diary, she closes the year with the results of the Local Law 11 façade work, assessment issues and the annual elections at the 387-unit, five-building Park Terrace Gardens in the Inwoodsection of Manhattan. What she and her board went through — is that what you go through, too?

Mary Fran is a fairly typical board member, dedicated and determined, who has served three years as a member-at-large, one year as the vice president and then a year (so far) as president. Her home, Park Terrace Gardens in the Inwood section of Manhattan, is a fairly typical property of its type: a five-building, 387-unit cooperative built in 1939-40 and incorporated as a cooperative in the mid-1980s. It has a nine-member board, four supers, five porters, and a resident manager and her assistant in an onsite office.

When I looked at my co-op's financial situation in 2005, we had less than $10,000 in reserves, negative equity and barely positive cash flow. My building needed a sustainable, long-term fiscal plan. And I had my prototype: the Marriott hotel chain. I had worked for Marriott in the late 1980s into the early 1990s. At that time, the chain set aside a percentage of its revenue each year for capital repairs and improvements. As a result, management is able to repair and improve the property so that it stays current. Our co-op was in desperate need of a Marriott-style makeover!

With interest rates at record lows, many apartment owners and shareholders are looking to refinance their loans. That means copious amounts of paperwork, along with e-mails, phone calls, and faxes. But what does it mean for the board?

Some buildings take the position that if the bank is willing to lend the money, the board is willing to sign off on it without looking at the financials. Considering the shaky state of banking in recent years, some professionals suggest that a prudent board should take steps to protect the property's financial health.

So You Want To Be a Board Member? Sure! It's No Harder Than Giving Birth!

Written by Mary Fran, Board President, Park Terrace Gardens. One in an occasional series of real-life stories by board members about serving on co-op and condo boards. on April 26, 2012


My board experience began in the mid-1980s when our building on the Upper West Side was converted from a rental to a cooperative. It was a 48-unit, early-20th-century building showing the effects of age and neglect. I was on the conversion committee that conducted meetings with residents, met with the landlord (seller), hired an attorney and went through the whole messy and fearsome process. For those of you who have done this, I needn't explain.

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