New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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It seems like just yesterday we were talking about how to get Christmas trees into co-op and condo units without totaling the common areas or being a drag on building staff. Alas, the holiday season is over, and it's time to get rid of those trees. The New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS) will start collecting them this Monday, January 5, through Friday, January 16. DOS is requesting that residents put out those discarded trees at curbside as early as possible during the collection period — that is, don't everybody wait until January 16. DOS is also asking that residents remove all tree stands, tinsel, lights, and ornaments from trees before placing them out for collection and to not place trees in plastic bags. Here we go again with the pine needles everywhere — poor common areas, poor building staff. Brickunderground.com reminds co-op and condo residents to check any policies the board may have put in place, so you're not leaving a trail of Christmas detritus all over the elevator, lobby, basement, or other common areas. If there's a service elevator, use it to minimize hassle for others, recommends Brickunderground.com, adding that if the super or doorman ends up helping you get rid of your tree, do tip them (yes, on top of whatever you gave them for the holiday). DOS will be turning discarded trees into mulch that will be distributed to parks, playing fields, and community gardens throughout the city.

It was one hell of a year for condo sales, so much so that one group of real estate execs talked them up big time. Another group, however, said to expect the luxury market to shrink thanks to a slowdown in condo sales. Just how much of a slowdown? The New York Daily News reports that condo sales dropped 26 percent between October and November 2014, following a seasonal high in October. "Colder weather and modest price growth put a chill on condo sales activity in November. That's not a surprise as October is typically the final push for home purchases before the end of the year," StreetEasy data scientist Alan Lightfeldt told the Daily News. "But the slowdown will likely continue through all of 2015. We predict condo prices will increase at just half their 2014 pace over the next year." Lightfeld also echoed the real estate experts who spoke with DNAinfo, adding that "greater inventory will give Manhattan buyers the opportunity to be more aggressive about negotiating asking prices." Condo sales may have fizzled as the year drew to a close, presenting sellers with bad news indeed; but one seller's misfortune is another buyer's gain.

The Salvation Army thrift shop at 176 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg was demolished last year. Talk about location, location, location. Williamsburg is pretty hot stuff and getting hotter by the second. So it doesn't come as a huge shock that the Sally has scrapped plans to build "a two-story, 10,000-square-foot building" (which were three years in the making), and opted instead to sell the prime piece of property, according to the New York Observer’s Commercial Observer. Major Charles S. Foster, the command property secretary major for the Salvation Army, confirmed to the Commercial Observer that "the site is being marketed by Steve Bodden and Jack Lerner of Sanchez Bodden Lerner." As far as buyer and price go, mum's the word. Brownstoner.com speculates that given the busy corner location, rentals would make sense, "but the market has been turning to condos lately so who knows." Looks like potential condo buyers have something to keep their eye on in the next few years.

Chicken-wing-eating rabbits in Gowanus, raccoons about to get busy in Harlem, and goats grazing outside an IKEA in Red Hook? Only in New York... When it comes to odd news, December certainly seems to have worked overtime. What a way to close the year. Of course, not all pests are unusual (and newsworthy), but they are still pests all the same. Do you know what to do if you have a rat infestation? We know how mortifying and embarrassing it is to seek help, so we did the legwork for you. Read about one Upper West Side condominium's battle with the horrible critters. Be sure, also, to check out what the Rat Academy is all about and how setting one up can put an end to your pest-related woes. As for the stigma of having rats, don't worry. It could be worse

As is expected when a year draws to a close, we look ahead to what's in store. The New York Times' Ronda Kaysen looked ahead to see what co-ops and condos could expect in the New Year — which will be here in just a few more hours. Energy is going to be the "hot-button topic" of 2015. Residential buildings account for 37 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions, Kaysen explains. Therefore, large residential buildings are going to have to brace themselves for "Local Law 87, which requires them to audit energy usage and keep systems running at peak efficiency." Energy efficiency pays off in the long run, she adds, but the challenge is the initial investment. You know what they say. Life in the big city ain't cheap, and it ain't gonna get cheaper any time soon. Silver lining, though. There are some incentives that might alleviate some of that sticker shock. Luckily for you we've got you covered

Planning to Refinance? 20 Ways Your Board Can Prepare

Written by Patrick Niland on December 31, 2014

New York City

A well-prepared board with an organized file of building information should be able to complete a refinancing — from start to finish — within 60 days. Refinancing an underlying mortgage will affect not only the monthly maintenance of every shareholder but also the market value of every apartment. It is not something to undertake alone. So how do you best prepare?

Remember the iPad on steroids? It's just one of the new tools in a technological arsenal that real estate developers are using to sell, sell, sell in the city. The beautiful thing about technology is that it's forever evolving. Just check out what Extell Development Company is using to sell condos in the 219-unit One Riverside Park. Holograms. They call it innovative. We call it pretty darn cool. According to The New York Times article, "the hologram presentation includes an overview of the waterfront neighborhood, a trip inside the new complex, now 85 percent sold with remaining units ranging from $3.6 to $25 million, and a dazzling display of its amenities." You can tell someone how amazing a unit is, not to mention all the awesome amenities, but it's always better to show them. In a city where it's always best to walk your talk, that just makes good sense.

In 2012, Concord Village — a seven-building, 1,025-unit cooperative in downtown Brooklyn — was approved for a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for up to $600,000 toward energy fixes if the building decreased energy use by 15 percent in a year. All it had to do was produce an energy audit, identify upgrades, and then complete the upgrades in a year.

The co-op identified $2.5 million in upgrades, but it quickly became clear that some of the plans were too ambitious to finish in time. Plans to retrofit the ventilation system, for instance, were scrapped when the board realized the vents were different sizes in each unit and in different places, making changes difficult to complete quickly.

As with many post-war properties, Concord Village, a seven-building, 1,025-unit cooperative in downtown Brooklyn, heat wasn't distributed evenly, forcing shareholders to cope by opening windows in the middle of winter to cool down their overheated units.

There were other ways the co-op was wasting energy, too. Take the stairwells: "On a windy day, you could hear the howling wind going through the staircase, and that was taking the hot air as well," says Catherine Woolston, a board member who pushed for change in the co-op.

It was a rough year for affordable housing in the Big Apple, but the city delivered some hope last week to supporters of Mitchell-Lama. According to a DNAinfo report, the city announced last week that BFC Partners — the developers of Staten Island's outlet mall — plan to buy and rehabilitate the Arlington Terrace Apartments, a Mitchell-Lama housing complex in Mariners Harbor. BFC will spend $75 million to tackle major exterior and interior fixes on all four buildings. The developers also plan to rename the complex North Shore Plaza and "extend its affordability for residents," the report added. That's definitely good news to residents of the troubled housing complex, who have had to cope with mold, mice, and even crime in their own courtyard.

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