New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Co-op and condo boards can’t afford to ignore discriminatory outbursts.

Vetting pooches is no laughing matter for co-op boards


Most shareholders would like to assume that their neighbors are kind, compassionate people – or at least, not scary bigots who might go off without a moment's notice. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, and Ronda Kaysen's most recent Ask Real Estate column has one such story. A reader writes, "My partner was subjected to a lengthy homophobic tirade by another resident in the lobby of our co-op, observed by one of the building’s doormen. ...The doorman did nothing. In response to our formal complaint, the board said it has nothing to do with disputes between residents, unless a physical assault or other criminal action occurs." Kaysen's advice veers towards the practical, telling the shareholders to start a paper trail and to be prepared to escalate to the New York City Commission on Human Rights if the board continues not to act. 

A fire broke out early last week at a co-op on East 37th Street, leaving nearly a dozen people hurt. WABC Eyewitness News reported that the blaze "started with an unattended candle that had fallen from a table." Unattended candles, holiday decorations, heating equipment, and even deep fryers are all potential fire-starters in winter. Unfortunately for the people living in this Murray Hill co-op, a series of mistakes made a bad situation worse.

It's back to the drawing board for Rivergate Apartments' plan to build a retail building on top of a playground in Joseph Slifka Park. reports that the City Planning Commission will not give its approval until the developer reaches a compromise with residents. The original plan, which Rivergate owner UDR presented last month to members of Community Board 6, called for a 4,000-square-foot retail building as well as a renovation of the remaining green space, according to DNAinfo. New dog run and artificial turf field notwithstanding, some folks want the building to be smaller, while others don't want retail encroaching on what amounts to their backyard. The bottom line is that residents want a say in the final design, and it looks like they will make their voices heard at a public meeting with UDR on Jan. 7, 2015. New year, new proposal. 

It seems to be theme week this time around in Ronda Kaysen's "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times, with three items involving renters in a co-op or a condo. First up, a Murray Hill co-op board and its super won't provide proof that a rule no one told a departing renter about really exists. Next, a SoHo loft owner — which is a lot like a condo owner; just go with it — with a tenant needs to know just how far his repair obligations go in terms of precisely matching the paint in the loft below after a leak. Not sure why both the question and the answer refer to a "subtenant" rather than just a tenant, which is what the New York City Loft Board calls them, but whatever. Finally, a condominium sponsor and a condo board in the West Village appear to be at odds — stranding rent-stabilized tenants who need repairs done.

The Churchill, a cond-op in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, is widely considered one of New York City's finest buildings. Yet, until recently, the 30 staff members who open the doors, greet residents, help with packages and fix the leaks were lacking the polish of the building's exquisite lobby. "We have an excellent staff, but they needed to hear and see the basics," says Ronald Kaslow, president of the board. "We saw that even some of our better people [could use some advice]." 

The board then did something novel in the world of residential real estate: It sent them to "school" for "customer care."


At  Morgan Court, a 22-story condominium in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, a balky old generator stood sentry in a courtyard for decades. It provided some power to the building during the August 2003 blackout but then failed to function during routine maintenance checks. The condo board sporadically talked about fixing or replacing it but never did.

Then, the big storm hit.

Along with such other increasingly standard amenities as gyms, parking garages and rooftop terraces, many cooperatives and condominiums are striving for staff service on the polished level found in hotels. And to do so, many condo and co-op boards are turning to training, using classes and consultants to teach doormen, concierges and others the finer points of resident service — essentially good customer care. But where do you find them, and how well do they work?

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.

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