New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021



Habitat talked about this last year in a story about how co-ops and condos all have unwritten rules about the privacy of your building's security-camera footage, key-fob data and other standard electronic measure — and how unwritten rules are dangerous and prone to abuse. It's a lesson that never gets old, as attorneys Dean Norris and Jeffrey Reich reiterate in the latest installment of's "Ask an Expert" column: "Who's Allowed To Watch My Building's Security Camera Footage?"

How do you cope with living between your co-op board president and your co-op board treasurer without accidentally getting yourself evicted? Pretty easily, according to the pseudonymous Pamela, writing in’s “Living Next To” column. Although the standard complaints arise — noisy dogs and, ahem, “recreational” smoke — the writer admits that living near the co-op’s authorities does have perks, like no riotous parties or unauthorized renovations on her floor. Guess the pros outweigh the cons in this situation.

Ask the Engineer: Why Does the DOB Turn Minor Repairs into Major Ones?

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on June 12, 2014

New York City

A reader asks: I am on the board of a prewar co-op on the Upper West Side. We authorized a contractor to do some minor masonry repairs, which could be performed without rigging, in order to stop a leak on the 16th floor. The repairs were small enough to not require filing with the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) and amounted to less than $10,000. However, just after we started work, a DOB inspector stopped us and said we were required us to file a site-safety plan. We have been told by a site-safety company that because the work is within 20 feet of the street, we need a sidewalk shed. This is crazy! Please explain.

Noise and smoke complaints are two of the most common woes in co-ops and condos, as two put-upon shareholders lament in The New York Times' Ask Real Estate column. The first letter-writer says marijuana smoke from a hard-to-pinpoint location is worsening his wife’s asthma, while the second (scroll down to read) insists a new elevator is the cause of a constant whining and grating sound. Ronda Kaysen consults experts for both situations and offers tips on who to contact and what can be done. 

Energy consultant Tom Sahagian is Senior Program Director, Technical Services, at Enterprise Community Partners.

Frustrated and confused, Jane gave me a call.

It was a sign of desperation. Jane, her co-op's resident boiler expert, prided herself on taking excellent care of the heating system. Usually, it ran smoothly and efficiently, but lately she had been making endless trips to the basement to add up to two or three inches of water to the boiler.

Bedbugs and Boards: What to Expect If Your Apartment's Infested

Written by Elizabeth Jensen on December 31, 1969

New York City

Elizabeth, a communications executive, came home to her Upper West Side co-op one evening to find a note, in Spanish, from her cleaning lady: "Chinche." That word wasn't in Elizabeth's limited Spanish vocabulary, so she asked the doorman to translate and learned the bad news: She had bedbugs. From there, her building's policies took over….

Arthur Weinstein, an attorney in private practice who has successfully enacted smoking bans in New York, says that many co-ops already have restrictions in their proprietary leases against noxious odors and/or disturbing neighbors. That — combined with recent court cases that say second-hand smoke is a violation of the warranty of habitability — gives boards the right to prohibit smoking in a building.

But only, insists Weinstein, if there is a complaint.

Which qualities do responsible co-op and condo boards possess? What things can boards pursue that genuinely increase apartments' market value? What are some of the specific challenges boards faces today, and where boards can find support and information?

Rarely has anyone answered the above questions in as succinct and straightforward a manner as Martha Goupit, Halstead Management's managing director and executive vice president. In an insightful interview with Keat Foong, executive editor of Multi-Housing News, she offers the kind of plainspoken facts and wisdom that, ironically, the less-than-expert board at my very own condominium complex seems not to want to believe. If others readers out there have similarly recalcitrant boards, maybe her words will be a wakeup call: "You don't believe me? Fine. Would you believe her saying the same things?"

Look Out Below! How to Install a Window Air-Conditioner Safely

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on June 05, 2014

New York City

Summertime heat is fast approaching and the sound of air-conditioning hum will soon fill the air. Co-op and condo apartment owners have to pay attention to how their units are installed, as unsafe conditions can cause all kinds of problems.

Danger Below! How to Safety Install Your Apartment's Window Air Conditioner

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on May 18, 2012

New York City

Window-mounted air conditioners generally aren't considered a serious safety issue in New York City, probably because there haven't yet been any high-profile cases of a falling A/C unit injuring or killing someone. But a poorly installed air conditioner can pose as much of a danger to pedestrians as unsafe façade conditions, so co-op / condo owners must make sure their window units are adequately secured.

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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