New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021



With the condo and co-op world reeling from revelations of the Saparn Realty scandal, in which a top executive in the management firm allegedly stole more than $2 million from dozens of buildings, boards need to wake up. With co-op and condominium expenses and revenues alike higher than ever, the ever-growing amount of money flowing through New York City apartment buildings means temptation is higher than ever as well. Boards have never needed to be more vigilant and aware.

"People think, 'Oh, the managing agent is responsible for everything,'" says Richard Montanye, a certified public accountant (CPA) with Marin & Montanye, "and the reverse is actually true. The board has to stay on top of things." But how?

Co-op boards in buildings still containing grandfathered rent-stabilized tenants, take note: On the heels of Mayor Bill de Blasio's new housing plan for New York City, DNAinfo has an enraging report about the tens of thousands of rent-stabilized apartments that are actually occupied not by middle- and lower-class tenants but rather by such big earners as a former Philip Morris executive and an oral surgeon at New York Presbyterian. The fact that they can exploit legal loopholes is leading to serious debate about the City's deregulation laws and how this will affect the Mayor's housing initiative. 

The latest missile fired in the real-estate arms race appears to be who can offer the most amenities, according to Crain's New York Business. Developers are scrambling to offer newer, better and sometimes just more perks to potential renters and buyers in order make their new-construction projects stand out in a crowded marketplace. Co-op and condo boards and homeowners have to wonder how this will affect their own apartments' market if their buildings can't keep up.

Maria Civille's 116-unit co-op in Staten Island is considering a ban on smoking in the building. As with most boards, this means reading up on what other buildings are doing and how they're doing it, followed by internal discussion and then, almost inevitably, by rumors like "They're imposing $500 fines if they catch you smoking!" when all you're talking about is simply accepting non-smokers only in future apartment sales.

Glenn Coleman at Crain’s New York Business poses the question: Is landmarking in Manhattan getting out of control? “Nearly 30% of Manhattan is now under the jurisdiction of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission,” he reports. On Tuesday, May 20, Crain’s will be hosting a forum at 8 a.m. at the New York Athletic Club to discuss how landmarking is affecting the real-estate market in New York City. 

Brick Underground’s latest "Ask the Expert" column focuses on who pays for repairs when a broker damages a seller’s property. The answer seems to be the ubiquitous "it depends," but suggestions range from contacting his or her superiors to taking the issue to Small Claims Court, as various situations may warrant.

The New York City metro area generally doesn't have the drought issues of some other parts of the country, but water conservation still remains a good idea. While consumption, condensation and rain make Earth a closed-loop system, we use up our relatively scarce fresh water faster than it can be replenished. Nor is it guaranteed that the quality of the replenished water will be the same. Treating water to make it drinkable takes major expenditure of energy and equipment — and low levels of water in reservoirs can mean higher concentrations of pollutants. Plus, water rates are up and bills are going through the roof.

Checking your water booster could be the easiest way to save your co-op or condo money. Of course, it helps to know what a water booster is. 

Are you in a building taller than six stories? Then you probably have a booster, which is a pump that keeps the water pressure going above a certain height, Since street water pressure in New York City is usually adequate up to about six stories, taller buildings need a booster or roof tank or a booster, or sometimes both. The taller the building, generally the more powerful the pump. So how do you save money with that?

It's a phone call you don't want to make to your co-op or condo's attorney: "What do we do about a staff member accused of abusing a child?" Or maybe it's a resident's teenage daughter claiming that a porter made unwelcome advances. Or someone's wife accuses an elevator operator of molesting her. And what about that theft that a homeowner thinks was a doorman's inside job?

None of these situations is novel, all can be highly contentious, and few can be easily resolved. So what's your lawyer — and what are you — to do?

Want to ensure a quorum at your next annual meeting? Do a lousy job throughout the year.

"That's the irony," notes attorney Phyllis H. Weisberg, a partner at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. "When everything is running smoothly and everybody's happy, it's harder to get a quorum."

"People come from far and wide if there are contentious issues," agrees longtime co-op board member Grant Varga, of the 57-unit 17 West 67th Street in Manhattan. "But when everything is going smoothly, people say, ‘What's my motivation to go?' So we work hard to convince them to show up." So how do you ensure that your building has the required quorum to make the annual meeting legit?

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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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