New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

Services that alert condo and co-op boards and managers about building violations and fines are becoming more sophisticated and ubiquitous. Three years ago, computerized violation-tracking and alert (CVTA) services were considered nonessential by some in the management industry. Today? They've gone from cutting edge to cutting board — just another everyday tool.

Along with climate change and bicycle lanes, disasters such as blackout, floods and hurricanes have become the new normal. To prepare for the next catastrophe, New York City has adopted several local laws that make it easier for condo and co-op boards and others to deal with the issues.

We have a board that has trouble meeting.

Not a troubled meeting. Not troubles at meetings. But trouble getting together. Coordinating schedules. Sitting down and talking.

It's not that we don't like meeting. It's just that we're all very busy. "I can meet on Monday or Tuesday," wrote one co-op board member. "I can meet on alternate Wednesdays," wrote another. "I'm available any night except Friday, Saturday, or Sunday — and not this Tuesday or Wednesday," wrote a third. (Translation: "I'm available on Monday or Thursday.")

In the midst of concern over a possible strike by Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union and a probable contract increase, condominium and cooperative homeowners might be wondering what exactly they're paying for when their condo or co-op board hires union employees. The short answer: a lot.

Hey, Infrared Thermography Can Detect Building Leaks! So, Uh, What Is it?

Written by Stephen Varone & Peter Varsalona on August 16, 2012

New York City

A reader asks: Our condominium has been experiencing leaks in the top-floor apartments, along one apartment line, in a stairwell and in the lobby. Contractors have made as-needed repairs to the roof over the past year, but eventually the leaks returned. Before we undertake a full-scale roof replacement, the board wants to do a thorough leakage investigation to determine the cause of the water penetration. We've heard how an infrared camera can take photos of the roof and other areas of the building to locate leaks. How exactly does it work, and how effective is it?

 Infrared thermography is a diagnostic tool used to detect potential building problems, including water penetration, heat or cooling loss, blockages in plumbing systems, malfunctioning mechanical systems, overloaded electrical circuits, structural defects, and substandard building construction.

For co-op boards, condo associations and others, the main advantage of an infrared survey is that it gives a view of building conditions beyond what can be seen by eyes alone. Another advantage is that it is a non-destructive method of testing, so it does not disturb the area being investigated. When used on mechanical and electrical systems, it doesn't interfere with equipment operation of equipment, so there's no need for shutdowns.

Even the bitterest of rivals in the relationship between co-op shareholders and what we colloquially call sponsors must come together when there is a common interest at stake. When an issue escalates to the point of litigation, for example, the sponsor will often work with the board to get testimony from shareholders to support his or her case.

Employment discrimination laws are designed to ensure equal employment opportunity for all individuals by prohibiting discrimination on a variety of bases and requiring companies to accommodate qualified disabilities and religious beliefs. But what happens when those very protections and accommodations for one protected trait appear to justify or mandate discrimination against a different protected class? Consider this hypothetical situation, based on real events.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, the Realty Advisory Board is negotiating on behalf of boards and landlords as it continues contract talks with the union representing doormen and other building workers. New York State has some questions about NYSERDA money at Co-op City. A Queens co-op seeks money to repair a Sandy-battered seawall. And who's the best building manager and which is the best property-management company in New York. Well, there are many factors consider including continuity of leadership, responsiveness to clients, stability, experience, expertise, sufficient staffing and industry reputation and good will. Or you could just go check out the NYARM Awards.

Updated Feb. 18, 2014 — Rumblings of malfeasance are circulating and sources confirm that a New York City District Attorney's office is investigating a major property-management company. For co-op and condo boards, this is wakeup call that financial controls and vigilance should be the order of the day.

It appears that a theft of funds is the source of concern. Sources close to the investigation say a large co-op (or perhaps several) is missing a significant portion of its reserve-fund account. The property-management company, the sole signatory on the account, had led the board to believe the money was still in the account by preparing false bank statements.

The history of bad blood between boards and holders of unsold shares or unsold apartments — often called "sponsors" though they might be not the original co-op sponsor or condo developer anymore — dates back to the rental-building conversion boom of the 1980s. Sponsors were the building owners who converted to cooperative status, with units sold to the public. However, in most cases, they would keep a number of apartments and retain majority control of the boards. As a result, they would have the largest say in rules, regulations, and spending for their buildings. This goes on today with new construction and some condominium developers. 

And the first step for condo and co-op boards that want an effective working relationship with a sponsor? It's understanding how sponsors think.

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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