New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

The co-op board was complaining about the superintendent. "He sends us bills for everything he does," said the treasurer. "He paints the hallways, we get a bill. He repairs the burner, we get a bill. He fixes plumbing in the walls, we get a bill. What are we paying him for? Cleaning up the hallways and common areas?"

I listened carefully to the duties enumerated by my colleague on the board and thought, "That's an awful lot of work to do for the pittance we pay him."

New York State's Cooperative and Condominium Tax Abatement Program was enacted in 1998 and renewed regularly in an attempt to equalize property taxes owed by apartment dwellers and house owners. It recently was extended to 2015 with some notable revisions to be phased in. Among them, non-owner-occupied apartments — including those held in trust or by limited liability companies (LLCs) are being excluded from the abatement program. And unfortunately, believe many experts believe the New York City's Department of Finance (DoF) has misidentified many innocent residents as non-owner-occupiers — with financially disruptive, if not downright devastating, results.

If you've lived in a cooperative or condominium during the past 15 years and the proper forms were filled out, chances are you've been getting a tax abatement on your apartment. The Cooperative and Condominium Tax Abatement Program is responsible for that, giving tax abatements to Residential Class 2 properties — that is, condos or co-ops with more than three units. Any apartment in a Class 2 building is eligible, except units receiving any other type of abatement; sponsor units; units that are used for non-residential purposes; and units owned by someone who owns three or more units in the same building.

The abatement was the result of state legislation, first passed into law in 1998 and renewed regularly ever since. It was originally enacted as a temporary measure to compensate for the discrepancy between the taxes on single-family homes and the much higher taxes on co-op and condo apartments in multi-unit buildings. This fall, there was some delay in renewing the law, but the legislators eventually came through, extending it to June 30, 2015.

A good thing, right? Well, yes and no.

How to Tame a Rogue Co-op or Condo Board Member

Written by Josh Milgrom on June 21, 2013

New York City

Have you ever dealt with a bullying or disruptive condo or co-op board member? This director can arise almost unsuspectingly, wreaking havoc on board meetings and threatening the effective and efficient business of your board. If left untamed, rogue board members can be damaging and destructive to a cooperative or a condominium association. How do you identify then and what can you do about them?

As a business researcher / strategist and former condo board member I have been active for years in my 500-plus-unit co-op, serving on finance and elevator committees and as research consultant to committees and board presidents on issues we all face as shareholders. I want to raise an issue of concern to many of our shareholders and to others in our form of housing: the disproportionate power wielded by holders of unsold shares, and the unequal application of the New York State Business Corporation Law, depending on when a co-op's bylaws became effective.

Although the New York State Condominium Act requires a secretary to keep a "record" of  the actions of the board, and the State's Business Corporation Law (BCL) requires that "minutes" be kept, practically speaking, most attorneys say there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two requirements. While the BCL statutorily doesn't apply to condos, case law over the years has, practically speaking, placed condominiums under the BCL umbrella.

Worried about guns in your building? Steve Rosenstein is. As board treasurer of a Brooklyn co-op, he maintains and updates the purchase application for unit sales in his building.

"After [the shootings at] Sandy Hook, I started thinking about adding a question or two about gun ownership to the application," he says. "I can tell you definitely that boards are starting to ask questions about guns and firearms as part of co-op admissions and habitability." With gun violence in the news, it may be time for your board to consider gun control.

Switching from No. 6 oil to No. 2 costs significantly less than going from No. 6 to gas. Why? As these two sample proposals by Kenneth Camileri, senior account manager for New York City Clean Heat, make clear, the reason is simple: There is much more work involved in changing from No. 6 to gas. That takes time, and that, of course, means more money for condominium and co-op boards.

Condominium and co-op board-meeting minutes are an important way to promote the value in your property. Although there is no legal requirement to share the minutes with the shareholders or potential buyers, most attorneys argue that you should show them because, otherwise, it looks like you're hiding something. The minutes can be reviewed by owners and potential buyers to evaluate the competency of the board, the state of the building's finances, litigation and other matters.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn yesterday announced a report recommending broad changes affecting co-ops, condos and all other New York City buildings that face the expected floods, destructive wind, blackouts and other extreme-weather results of climate change.

Among the proposals, which the mayor and speaker said they would pursue immediately, are Building Code upgrades, zoning changes and having buildings prepare emergency plans that include backup power and water. Earlier this week, the mayor additionally proposed a City registry of the most vulnerable citizens to better coordinate assistance and rescue.

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