New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Co-op and and condo boards that work with union staff, do check your contract and speak with your attorney before proceeding. As for everyone else, you probably want to know the National Labor Relations Board has just upheld a ruling that says employees on Facebook who discuss plans for insubordination, neglecting rules and undermining leadership are creating grounds for dismissal. As two attorneys write at, the employees in this case described their planned action "in such detail that a reasonable employer would reasonably refuse to take the risk of waiting to see whether the employees would act on the conduct they so artfully advocated."

The lawyers caution there's no guarantee the NLRB will always agree with the employer in such cases — but it's notable that this particular employer supplied the NLRB with screengrabs of the conversations. When, oh, when, will people learn that Facebook isn't private. Why, I think we should tweet about that right now....

The client’s tale: One of our co-op buildings has an investor who owns more than 50 percent of the outstanding shares, often called “unsold shares.” The co-op and investor agreed that at elections, holders of unsold shares would “elect one less than a majority of the members of the board of directors” — in this case, two members of the five-member board — so they could not take control of the co-op.

In an attempt to run the board, the investor sold the shares allocated to two of its apartments to friendly parties. The investor defied the election agreement, and three investor-supporting board members were voted in. The investor was in control of the co-op.

Michael Mintz and Dawn Dickstein, formerly of FirstService Residential New York, have teamed to form MD2 Property Group, a real estate company that provides management, consulting and investment services in the rental, cooperative and condominium markets.

"After more than 12 years in New York City property management, we recognized that the industry suffers from overstretched managers and support staff who are not compensated commensurate to their responsibilities, contributing to high turnover," explains president and co-founder Dickstein. "This turnover makes it virtually impossible to deliver consistent, quality management services. At MD2, strong performers have the opportunity to become stakeholders in the company. This structure allows us to attract and retain better talent, making all the difference in the level of service we provide."

Dickstein has more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of the management business, most recently as a managing director for FirstService, where she oversaw a portfolio of close to 5000 units. MD2 CEO Mintz has spent his entire career in real estate, including in management and acquisition, and has guided buildings through major capital projects. Their offices are at 6 East 39th Street in Manhattan.

Liz R.Insurance Broker writes: We are a condo of 67 units. Lately, buyers seem to be investors who are renting out their units. We have nothing that addresses this situation in our bylaws. We now have 10 of the units rented with no restrictions on time of lease, etc. I understand that if 30 percent of all units are rented, some banks will not approve a mortgage. I also see other pitfalls, and the board is discussing solutions. First, we are trying to get an 80 percent majority vote changed to 66 2/3rds in our bylaws. The more rentals with absentee occupancy, the more problems we seem to have. What are your thoughts, and has anyone confronted this same problem? This will be a hard sell.

Baby, it's cold outside, and your boiler and heating system are going full-blast. That's a big energy cost for your cooperative or condominium. Fortunately, you have options. With supplies of natural gas high and prices low (though higher than last year), it may make sense to switch from oil to gas — or perhaps to to a dual-fuel burner capable of operating with either. In our latest Teachable Moments column, two veteran property managers relate some real-world experiences of how they helped their co-ops and condos pull the trigger on pulling the switch. Did it work? Well, one place is saving $50,000 a year and others are saving six figures. Might be worth the energy to consider.

New York laws place absolute liability on landlords in cases of accidents. Therefore, co-op shareholders, condo unit-owners and boards of both types of buildings need to be absolutely sure that contractors they hire have proper insurance coverage.

Any apartment-owner hiring a contractor must complete an alteration or a decorating agreement and have it signed by the board. And a contractor must provide a certificate of comprehensive personal liability and property damage insurance policies from its insurance carriers, generally in the amount of $1 million, that name the shareholder, the co-op or condo and the managing agents as additional insured.

Have you taken a look at your building's website lately? Co-op board members are busy people, so the building website may be last on a long list of priorities. But if your building website looks dated and isn't user-friendly, maybe it's time to revamp it. The bottom line is that if it's not intuitive, it won't be used. Here are some tips on how to get started.

For example, if a worker is injured while working on the building's façade, he will probably sue his employer, the building he was on, and the managing agent. (With regards to any claim against the employer, the worker must first seek relief from workers' compensation — and that award is eventually deducted from any other judgment.) The problem is that if the contractor's insurance policy is deficient in some way — he told his insurer that he is doing carpentry instead of façade work, for example — the insurer will deny the claim. That can leave the building open to liability, despite an indemnification clause.

You can call them pocket listings, whisper listings or off-market listings ... but chances are you won't be able to call them anything because, really, what are the chances schlubs like you or me are going to get tipped off to an unpublicized, unlisted co-op or condo apartment for sale? Well, our odds just got better with's three-part "Guide to Elusive 'Whisper Listings'," here, here and here. That's a lot of whispering. There's advice for both buyers and sellers from brokers and attorneys, including how to tell if the seller really does have a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge, or at least to that nice apartment Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

A READER ASKS: I just bought a gorgeous condo unit in a building overlooking Central Park. Recently, I got a letter that read, “We represent Component Assembly Systems, Inc., a subcontractor [on a project in your building]. Please find for service upon you a copy of a Notice Under the Mechanic’s Lien Law filed in the office of the Clerk of the County of New York on April 3, 2009.” The lien is for $8,334,400, and apparently I’m responsible for a proportionate share. What is this?

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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