New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Some prewar buildings that were originally built as office towers in the early 20th century are being converted into residences. These include 100 Barclay and 70 Pine in Lower Manhattan. The lobbies of both those buildings, reports The New York Times, have been designated landmarks by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Preservations, explains The Times, is the name of the game. The article takes a look at five residential conversion projects to see what steps developers are taking to restore these splendid old lobbies. Included among the five projects is one of New York's gems, the Woolworth Building. The Times calls its "original 1913 grand arcade, designed by Cass Gilbert, the most famous office lobby in New York," and we think it's no exaggeration. Alchemy Properties, which is converting the top 30 floors into high-end residences, says it has no plans to compete with the landmarked lobby "when it decided to craft a new lobby around the corner at 2 Park Place," but instead complement it. How? Combine modernity with a feeling of old New York: "a double set of custom metal and glass doors will open to maple-paneled walls and marble floors" and the new lobby's focal point will be "the ornate coffered ceiling that decorated F. W. Woolworth’s personal office, which is being restored, reinforced and relocated from the 40th floor," while the new lobby's elevators will bear the telltale W motif of the original iron elevator surrounds.

Photo source: Woolworth Tours

Getting older is a fact of life. As we've pointed out in the recent past, with older communities in co-ops and condos come new problems – but there may be new solutions, too. Ina Torton of Rutenberg Realty recognizes the need to develop new solutions. That's why she started a new seniors division at Rutenberg so she and a dozen of her colleagues can help older adults sell their homes and relocate to retirement facilities, reports the Daily News. It's "a niche she carved out during a 10-year tenure at Halstead Property" and one that is quite in demand. Citing a 2014 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the report states that the population of Americans older than 65 will grow to 83.7 million by mid-century from just 43.1 million in 2012. This is a valuable resource that can help seniors, many of whom have lived in a co-op or condo for most of their lives, make the transition a lot less difficult.

Perhaps more important than finding that perfect apartment is nabbing a coveted parking space. There are never enough of them. How can your building distribute a scarce asset? In the standard co-op arrangement, parking is a community amenity, usually priced at below-market rates to benefit members, who pay separate monthly fees. Spaces return to the pool after individuals sublet their apartments for an extended period, sell, or die. As vacancies occur, they’re filled through a waiting list or, less often, via a lottery. In any event, resident shareholders should have priority over subtenants.

Maintenance increases and assessments are par for the course in New York co-ops. That's how it usually goes, anyway. Not so for the residents of 99 Bank Street who started 2015 with some excellent news. Their maintenance payments were going to decrease... to nearly nothing. One resident who used to pay a monthly maintenance fee of $816 for a 520-square-foot studio, plus a special assessment of $170 per month, now pays $20.40 a month and no more assessment. Yep, we're still talking about New York City.

Supermodel Linda Evangelista, fashion designer David Neville, and other penthouse owners on the top floor of the Spears Building at 525 West 22nd Street are crying foul after getting stuck footing the $1.5 million bill to replace the roof of their posh Chelsea condo. The group filed a lawsuit Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court, reports the Daily News, alleging that "the board intends to violate the condominium's bylaws by socking them with the entire seven-figure cost." Evangelista and company contend that the owners of all 30 units should pay. They're all in this together, after all. The Daily News cites court papers where the group's lawyer, Bryan Kirshner, said that "in 2011 the board got a legal opinion that a total replacement was the responsibility of the entire building while only those with private terraces on the sixth-floor rooftop have to pay for routine maintenance." Kirshner adds that the board then changed its mind: rather than replace the roof it would institute an "aggressive maintenance program." As of last month, however, the board went back to its original plan of replacing the roof, but charging the entire cost, plus financing, to the penthouse owners. The embattled group aims to block the formal vote on the proposal scheduled for Thursday night and the board from getting any financing until the penthouse owners can litigate the issue of who's paying for it.

Photo by Christopher Bride for Property Shark.

The Quest for a Limit on Property Taxes

Written by Jennifer V. Hughes on March 04, 2015

New York City

For years, many co-ops and condos and the organizations representing them have rallied around a common cry: "Taxes are unfair!" And they've had a point: for years, single-family homeowners have been the chosen ones, at least as far as the politicians go. While the assessed valuation — a key part of the financial equation that determines how much a building pays in property taxes — on co-op and condo taxes increased, those on single-family homes had a cap on how high they could go. That changed slightly over the years, when co-ops and condos with 11 units or less got their own cap: no more than 8 percent per year and no more than 30 percent over five years. It was still higher than the assessment for single-family homeowners; that cap is no more than 6 percent per year and no more than 25 percent over five years. But it was a start.

Kuafu Properties, a Chinese private equity firm with an office in New York, plans to build a 47-story condo and hotel tower near Hudson Yardsif a judge rules in its favor and boots the development giant's local partners from the deal. According to the Daily News, Kuafu wants a judge to force local players Blackhouse Development and Siras Development to turn over their stakes in the project. If not, Kuafu will sell the land to the highest bidder and the tower may never see the light of day. Kuafu told the Daily News that Blackhouse and Siras "keep going behind its back to make decisions about the property, at 38th St. and Eleventh Avenue, despite the fact that their operating agreement dictates that every decision requires the vote of Kuafu's executives. Siras went behind its back to tap brokerage Compass to market the condo units, while Blackhouse keeps talking about the project to the press without the permission of all the partners." Spokespersons for Blackhouse and Siras did not immediately respond to the newspaper's requests for comment. The companies bought the development site last year for $115 million and "were planning a 380,000-square-foot mixed-use tower with 50 condo units, a 400-room hotel and high-end retail on the ground floors." With work on the tower now stalled, it seems like a waste of time, resources, and money. But Kuafu guesstimates the sellout of the project at $600 million — a nice jump from what the three companies paid. And let's face it. In New York, if these guys don't finish building that tower, whoever buys it probably will. Who says there isn't good drama in New York real estate?

Image source: Kaufu Properties

It is the place from which the "guardian of the gates" performs his assigned duties: greeting, announcing, and then directing visitors to their destinations; accepting and storing packages and dry cleaning for later pickup; and opening and closing the front door for residents and guests. It is a special place that few consciously notice but which plays a crucial role in the ebb and flow of a building's life. It is the concierge desk, a little-discussed yet vital station in a building's lobby that must fit with the structure's historic style even as it incorporates new technology for a new era.

Times — and needs — change. What should you be concerned about when redesigning your concierge desk?

On the Money: Stop Flushing Dollars Down the Toilet

Written by Andrew Padian on February 25, 2015

New York City

Water costs in New York City and across the country are skyrocketing. With the new water rates kicking in this year, the combined cost of water plus sewer usage is slightly more than 1.29 cents per gallon. Still much cheaper than bottled water, but it means your teenager's daily 20-minute shower costs $95 per year in water alone, not including the cost of heating it.

As a board director trying to reduce expenses in your building, where should you look to save water dollars? 

Spring may be allegedly around the corner, but the snow is still coming — an inch here, three there, falling on top of all the other snow this relentless winter has sent our way. Depending on where you live, snow may still be accumulated on rooftops and, unfortunately for one shareholder in a small brownstone co-op, terraces. The shareholder tells Ronda Kaysen in this week's "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times that his unit has a terrace directly above his neighbor’s bedroom ceiling. "The house rules and the proprietary lease require me to keep my terrace free from snow, but the rules do not explain where I should put the snow," he writes. Kaysen explains that when your apartment comes with a terrace, the burden of shoveling falls on your shoulders. Indeed, most co-ops and condominiums require residents with private balconies or terraces to shovel the snow and clear the ice that accumulates there. "While the rules are loud and clear about what to clean up, they are typically silent about how to clean up," Kaysen says. Even if your terrace doesn't face the street and sidewalk below and your downstairs neighbors give you the green light to knock the snow to the garden, it's not a good idea. Injure anyone with falling snow and you open yourself up to a lawsuit, explains real estate lawyer Steven R. Wagner. A better solution? Shovel it into a large container and let it melt in the shower. Them's the breaks, but look at it the bright side: you have a terrace you can enjoy once the weather lets us all thaw out a bit.

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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

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