New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



This week, the co-op board of the publicly subsidized Lindsay Park Houses in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, used taxpayer money to send letters endorsing disgraced former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who — despite sexual-harassment charges by eight women and having to resign following a state Ethics Commission investigation — is running for City Council. But it seems that's legal — as is, apparently, a Florida condominium board's refusal to sell to unmarried straight or gay couples "living in sin"… and since gays can't marry in Florida, that point's especially problematic. We don't usually note news outside the metro area, but real-estate discrimination against those who don't share your religious beliefs seems more than parochially important. And in other news: Parents like playrooms as an amenity!

Jeffrey Sosnick was first shown an apartment in his Central Park West building in 1982. The property was converting from a rental to the 227 Tenants Corporation, a cooperative. "The broker," he remembers, "said, 'Prewar — like pre-World War I!" As Sosnick — the co-op board president for 30 of the 31 years he's lived there — describes, "You feel like you're going into some European apartment house because of the design elements."

That's one reason the 20-unit building is part of the "Upper West Side-Central Park West" historic district designated by New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) — and one reason why a window-replacement project ballooned from a $400,000 budget to $571,000. On the one hand, that triggered the first special assessment in the co-op's history; on the other, it may have added compensatorily to its apartments' value.

The installation of new windows at the Central Park West co-op had ballooned in cost from $400,000 to $571,000, since the building is in a landmarked district and the windows had to be historically accurate. "The shareholders were mostly sanguine" about paying for the overage, says board president Jeffrey Sosnick, and everyone was happy with the results. "However," he adds, "as a result of all these additional costs it became necessary for the first time in our history to declare a shareholder assessment," for $70,000. "We had always prided ourselves on never spending more than we had."

Was the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking too much? Did the co-op want to cut corners that would harm the heritage of New York City? And where was the architect in all this? In Part 2 of our story about one co-op's dealings with the LPC, we offer an oral history describing the aftermath.

The co-op where I live, 5 Riverside Drive, is a wonderful place. A classic Art Deco high-rise designed by the team of Boak and Paris in 1937, the 109-unit co-op sits on the corner of 73rd Street and Riverside Drive. The shareholders love the proximity to Riverside Park and enjoy the wide vistas of the Hudson River. The building, which went co-op in 1966, has round-the-clock service and a live-in superintendent, laundry, storage and a bike room.

With those attractions, however, come challenges, as we learned when the real estate market took off. Ten percent of our apartments were sold within three years, many for between $1 million and $2 million. A number of shareholders submitted larger and more complex renovation plans than we'd ever handled.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a wonderful new affordable co-op in The Bronx (at left) finds loud, trashy neighbors drinking on the street and throwing dangerous objects from several stories above — and the police don't care. Bet they would if this were 15 Central Park West, another co-op in the news. Plus, why is a Queens condo paying to keep up land the Department of Transportation is supposed to maintain? And for boards, we've the latest on the Dakota's discrimination lawsuit and on two East Village co-ops' no-restaurant policy.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. More trouble for those involved in illegal short-term rentals, with a major real-estate agent involved. Plus, advice for dealing with co-op board rejection, how to gracefully decline writing a recommendation letter, second-class citizenship at luxury condos, and co-op capers with beer heiress Daphne Guinness and Academy Award-nominee Jessica Chastain (at right). And for co-op / condo boards, we've analyses of Fletcher v. Dakota and of the easing of FHA condo rules.

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.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, it's all about balance: When co-op maintenance or condo common charges are too high, the middle class leaves. Too low, and you may not be able buy a boiler. We've another analysis of the new tax-abatement law, eco-friendly floors in Brooklyn, superstorm Sandy debris in Staten Island, and a newly landmarked co-op in Queens. And for boards there's got The Dakota lawsuit — as told by Vanity Fair! Welcome to the big time!

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a co-op gets rid of a Citi Bike station — and we learn a co-op board elsewhere has banned shareholders from having bikes. A Bronx co-op owner tells a board horror story — and a board member asks how to get rid of a bullying board president. But on the positive side, Co-op City gets energy-efficient lighting — and Madonna's cut the price of her Harperley Hall co-op; now it's just $19.995 million!

The current discrimination lawsuit against the famed Dakota Apartments co-op by African-American investment executive Alphonse Fletcher Jr. sent chills down co-op and condo board members' spines last July. That's when the judge in the case overturned one of the bedrock decisions in New York co-op law, Pelton v. 77 Park Ave. Condominium (2006), which largely protected board members from personal liability in discrimination cases. "[T]he participation of an individual director in a corporation's [wrongful act] is sufficient to give rise to individual liability," the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court wrote in July. But, really, what's the worst that could happen?

Ask Nick Biondi — who is personally out well over $100,000 plus legal fees.

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