New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Will co-ops and condos be included?

It's a fair question. Earlier this week, as part of his proposed budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a property tax credit that will affect more than 1 million homeowners and 1 million renters — but was worryingly quiet on whether co-op and condo owners would be affected. 

We're halfway through January, temperatures have dropped, and baby, it's cold outside. It's time to talk about carbon monoxide and Local Law 75.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, most accidental carbon monoxide poisonings happen in January (the second most happen in December). That makes it a good time for co-op and condo boards to remind residents to test their detectors and change the batteries, if need be.

Energy Detective: The Case of the Buried Leaky Pipe

Written by Tom Sahagian on January 14, 2015

New York City

A few weeks ago, my pal Manny, a contractor, came to me with a frustrating problem. A client's co-op was using a lot of boiler makeup water and did not know why. The co-op had already found one leak underneath a first-floor apartment. Then Manny noticed the water meter on the boiler feed line was running backward and recommended the co-op install a new one.

The new meter showed that the leak was still about 70 gallons per day — it should have been more like 70 gallons a year. The number-one suspect was the condensate return pipe that ran under the beautiful lobby floor. 

Never Mind the Windows, A Board Upgrades the Boiler

Written by Tom Soter, with additional reporting by Kathryn Farrell on January 07, 2015

51 Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village, New York City

They would have preferred to have new windows before they got a boiler upgrade, but the seven professionals who were sitting on the board of the 95-unit co-op were not fools about fuel: getting something for nothing trumps a room with a view (even through new windows). Every time.

The saga started when the manager of 51 Fifth Avenue, Ellen Kornfeld, a vice president at the Lovett Group, alerted the board to a program Con Edison offers through its Oil to Gas Conversion Group. Simply put, as long as the building (1) is a qualified property converting from oil to natural gas; and (2) is requesting a "firm" (i.e., the building only burns natural gas) gas connection, the utility will bring in gas from the street to "the point of entry" (essentially, where the pipe connects with the building). All this depends on another factor, as well: whether the pipes in your area have sufficient capacity.

New York State is not kidding around when it comes to clean air. Neither is New York City. The real estate on which smokers can light up has been steadily shrinking in the last few years. That doesn't stop some of them from lighting up anyway. Take the patrons of a restaurant in Chelsea, located adjacent to a co-op building. They frequent the restaurant's small outdoor space, which is not used for seating, to smoke, says one of the co-op's tenants to Ronda Kaysen in the latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times. And — you guessed it — the smoke seeps into the co-op’s public foyer. The co-op tenant asks whether there any regulations in place for restaurants and bars that require smokers to stand a certain distance from the building. You bet there are. Kaysen explains that the restaurant next door (take note, bars and other public establishments) is supposed to make sure patrons smoke only in the designated areas — and those areas are very much regulated by both city and state smoking laws. "The State Liquor Authority, which grants and denies liquor licenses, could enforce smoking rules and strip the restaurant of its liquor license for failing to rein in its customers," says Kaysen. She recommends that the co-op or its managing agent file a "complaint with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene" as well as "with the State Liquor Authority." So if you're tired of smoke getting in your apartment, there's hope that you can stub out those cigarettes for good. 

The Business Judgment Rule and an Unreasonable Board

Written by Richard Siegler and Dale J. Degenshein on January 12, 2015

New York City

Some proprietary leases have provisions stating that when a shareholder has died, the apartment can be assigned to a member of the family who is financially responsible, and when considering such an assignment, the board "shall not unreasonably withhold" its consent.

But what does that really mean? And how much input can a court have into the board's determination under such a standard? 

The issue was addressed in Estate of Helen Del Terzo, Michael Del Terzo and Julius Robert Del Terzo v. 33 Fifth Avenue Owners Corp.

Ask the Engineer: How Do We Fix the Garage Without Losing Revenue and Our Tempers

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on January 13, 2015

New York City

A READER ASKS: I'm on the newly elected board of a 29-story co-op with a two-story below-grade parking garage. The garage has been in disrepair for years. There's cracked concrete with missing chunks and possible structural damage, leaks, and puddles throughout. We would like to undertake a much-needed repair program, but we on the board and the garage operator are concerned about the loss of revenue from closing the garage for a long period of time. In addition, residents who park their cars in the garage, which has 190 spots, are worried they won't be able to access them when they need to. What's the best way to do the work with minimum inconvenience?

A READER ASKS: I live in a co-op located in a historic district in Brooklyn. The building still has the original terracotta cornice, but at more than 100 years old, it has steadily deteriorated. Over the past few years, we’ve patched the particularly bad spots, but it's not really cutting it anymore. It looks like we have to replace some sections of it, if not the entire thing. Ideally, we'd like to replace it with terracotta and maintain the cornice’s decorative features as much as possible, but the costs may be beyond our budget. We've since found out that although there are replacement materials available, we may be limited to what types we can use because we're in a historic district. What are our options for a cornice replacement that meet the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval yet are still relatively affordable?

When's the last time you reviewed your building's pet policy? Co-ops and condo boards, take note, because wherever you fall on the great ferret debate, you may need to do some revising soon. On January 21, there will be a public hearing on the proposal to lift the ban on ferrets in New York City before the Board of Health. So what's the deal with ferrets? Well, we have to delve in a bit of New York City history for this one. About ten years ago or so, says The New York Times, Rudolph W. Giuliani instituted a ban on ferrets, and totally flipped his lid about them on a radio show wherein he not only confused ferrets with weasels (they are similar, to be fair) but also told a "ferret enthusiast" he was "deranged." Ferrets, explains the Times, are legal in the rest of New York State, not to mention other areas in the country. Fast forward to last spring and Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration — it has "proposed removing ferrets from the city's banned-pet list, a zoological rogues' gallery that also includes rhinoceroses, bats and poisonous centipedes." Consider that even if you don't think they're pretty adorable, ferrets are small and quiet — certainly quieter than dogs. At an average of two pounds, these little guys fall somewhere between house cat and old dog, sleeping for about 18 hours a day, according to one ferret owner who talked to the Times about why they make such ideal pets in the city. As for ferret owners being a little bit nuts, well, it's not like they are trying to keep pet rhinos.

It’s rarely easy to pass a bylaw revision in a cooperative, but it can be twice as harder in a condominium.

Why? Well, first, all of the condo's board members have to agree on the need for change. Then they have to get the unit-owners to agree. And if that weren't enough of a challenge, condo boards have to garner a supermajority in support of the revisions, either at a special meeting or an annual one.

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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