New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

New condos are popping up all over the city. It's understandable when you consider all the perks of owning a condo. Condos tend to command higher prices on the market, but there is also the question of freedom. When you own a condo, it's yours. There's no board telling you what to do regarding sublets and no underlying mortgage. Seems pretty neat. So why don't co-ops look into converting? Well, for starters, it's not so simple. And it might not be worth the headache. 

While New York may have managed to dodge the big Snowmageddon bullet a few weeks ago, the city — particularly the boroughs other than Manhattan (and beyond) — has been hit with snow and high winds. And while seasoned New Yorkers might shrug it all off as a bit of snow, one problem that severe winter weather brings is the possibility of power outages.

Proactive co-op and condo boards can use this as an opportunity to distribute to their shareholders and unit-owners information on what steps to take if the power goes out. 

Don't mess with a New Yorker's view, especially when it's a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. That's just one of the reason local officials, civic groups, preservationists, and some community residents are seriously ticked off about plans for a 494-foot-tall condominium tower over the water at the foot of Beekman Street. The condo tower is part of a planned $1.5 billion redevelopment years in the making that aims to "rehabilitate crumbling piers, preserve landmark buildings and bring new vitality to the 400-year-old historic [seaport] district on the East River," according to The New York Times. But it looks like thanks to the tower, the project is going nowhere fast — this despite a $300 million amenity package, which also includes "rescuing the city’s financially ailing maritime museum, building a school and affordable housing, renovating the Tin Building and extending an esplanade." The tower, aside from obscuring view of the Brooklyn Bridge, would also stick out like a sore thumb in the "low-scaled, early-19th-century brick buildings that make up the 11-block seaport district, once the center of the city’s maritime industry." It may seem to some like it's much ado about nothing, but they do make a good point that applies to a lot of new construction all over the city. When we can't save old buildings, such as Harlem's historic Renaissance Ballroom on 138th Street and 7th Avenue, it would be nice to at least erect new buildings in their place that reflect a sense of the neighborhood's own history. Likewise, it would be nice to see a new building constructed in the historic seaport district that is aesthetically sensitive to its surroundings. 

April 1 is a date that boards in large, master-metered buildings should remember. That's the last day to maximize the benefits when they apply to a number of demand response (DR) programs that pay participants to not use energy on days when the heat or air conditioning spike. That's when Con Ed and/or the New York independent system operator requests "peak load" reductions from large properties that are part of demand response programs.

How do you get involved in such a program? 

JDS Development Group, which plans to build a condo near the High Line at West 24th Street between 10th and 11th avenues, is in hot water. DNAinfo cites New York City Department of Building (DOB) records that state the developer has received 14 violations and been fined more than $18,000 for unsafe construction building 210 West 18th Street. City Councilman Corey Johnson reportedly tried to visit one of JDS's construction sites following reports of two accidents, but said was denied access. So Johnson wrote a letter stating his concerns to Michael Stern at JDS. "I would ask that JDS adopt strong safety protocols on the site and only hire contractors and subcontractors with strong safety records," Johnson wrote in a letter dated Feb. 9 obtained by DNAinfo. "I also believe that employers should provide adequate training to employees and compensate them with a fair wage as well as benefits necessary to support a family in this city." Johnson's not the only one calling out Stern and JDS, either. In January, Crain's reported that JDS built a series of Manhattan luxury towers without union labor. And Gary LaBarbera, president of the NYC Building and Construction Trades Council, reportedly said, "We don't believe JDS is working as a responsible developer."

When short of cash, not many people would think to turn to the guy who manages their building for a loan. But that, in effect, is what some co-ops are doing as they await larger refinancing arrangements.

An interesting example of this phenomenon can be seen in a deal put together for Rye Castle, a high-end, 25-unit co-op in Rye, New York. Managed by Gramatan Management, the co-op ran through much of its cash reserve and its line of credit paying for roof repairs four years ago. Although its debt levels were not noticeably high, the co-op found itself with low levels of cash on hand. Analysis of its financial statements — and its modest levels of cash — made buyers uneasy; as a result, some co-op sales in the building have been scuttled in the last few years.

Apartment hunting in New York requires a methodical touch. You want to get a feel for what's out there, but you want, and need, to move fast. In a city as crowded as this, someone else can snap up the unit of your dreams from right under you. How can you stop that from happening? After all, you don't want to take the first apartment you see, right? Or do you? If you like it enough, then why not? An increasing number of co-op and condo buyers are seizing the day and buying the first apartments they see, according to The Daily News, in so-called "one-and-done" deals. "It’s the real estate equivalent of marrying the first guy you meet in a bar," says the report, adding, "Call them impulsive or foolhardy, but as inventory hovers at record lows, these devil-may-care purchasers are beating their rivals to the punch — and reaping the rewards." Fair enough. Before you seal the deal in ink, however, the article does caution potential buyers to do their research first: "A tall finance executive [fell hard for a] loft on the Upper West Side a few years ago [and] didn’t bother to explore the upstairs landing. When he came back to walk through the apartment before the closing, he discovered that the ceiling was so low that he couldn’t stand up straight. It was too late to back out of the deal." And that's got to suck. 

Do you live in a relatively new co-op or condo? Does it have a 13th floor? Chances are, the answer is no. According to The Wall Street Journal, although most people don't buy into the idea of unlucky 13, "less than 5 percent of residential condo buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn have a designated 13th floor." It might be a case of being better safe than sorry. That is, what if a broker is showing an apartment to a potential buyer in a building with a 13th floor? Well, if that potential buying is superstitious, then floor 13 will have caused the broker a sale. So who makes the call? WSJ explains that "the decision to omit the 13th floor occurs well before ground is broken. Both developers and marketers discuss floor layouts in initial planning meetings, but the developer has the final say. Then, if the 13th floor is omitted, developers work off two sets of plans — technical plans that show a 13th floor and marketing plans that don't." Who knew? But don't feel bad for poor old 13 — it's not the loneliest number anymore. WSJ reports that some developers are dropping the fourth floor because the number four is considered unlucky in Chinese culture. 

Evidence of construction is everywhere in the city. But not everyone looking to buy a co-op or condo gets to do it in a brand-new building — or wants to for that matter. Anyone who snaps up a unit in an older New York building can always remodel it: knock down a wall here, cut through another one there… with permissions, the sky's the limit.

Any remodeling work that requires a New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) permit also requires an asbestos survey. Here are some guidelines for how to properly perform and complete a survey, as well as an explanation of abatement procedures.

It began with an inquiry into the bribery of a single Department of Buildings (DOB) inspector. What followed was a nearly two-year investigation, initiated by the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office's Rackets Bureau, which revealed evidence of approximately $450,000 worth of alleged bribes made in connection with more than 100 residential and commercial properties in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Defendants include eleven DOB employees; five Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) employees; and twenty-eight property managers, contractors, and expeditors.

Ask the Experts

learn more

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

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?