New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



I'd probably be dead right now. Maybe you, too.

That's because in all the years I've been writing about co-ops and condos, including fire-exit regulations and Fire Dept. inspections, I probably would have headed down the stairs at The Strand. That's what Daniel McClung did during the blaze at that W. 43rd Street condominium on Jan. 5. Knowing only that his building was on fire, he tried to escape from the 32nd floor — and ran headlong into smoke from the 20th that killed him.

But I mean — it's a fire. You're supposed to get out, right?

A trio of New York City statutes instituted last year are designed to make it easier for co-op and condo boards and other building owners and managers to address the extreme-weather effects of climate change, as well as better prepare for emergencies generally. We've written about Local Law 110/2013, which requires, among other things, drinking-water stations that draw separate from the main water line; and Local Law 111/2013, which addresses the complicated rules that govern backup-power generators.

The third leg of this triangle is Local Law 109/2013, which helps make it easier for buildings to install flood barriers.

Five Things Your Co-op / Condo Board and Neighbors Won't Tell You

Written by Donna DiMaggio Berger on March 28, 2014

New York City

Editor's note: All boards and buildings have their little secrets — and some are more common than others. So who better than longtime condominium and homeowner-association attorney and regular Habitat contributor Donna DiMaggio Berger to offer five examples each of things condo and co-op boards won't tell homeowners and things your own neighbors won't tell you. See if any of these sound familiar…


Ask the Engineer: Diagnostic Probes Should Be Nothing Alien to Boards

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on March 06, 2014

New York City

A reader asks: I sit on the co-op board of a six-story building in Inwood. We recently hired an engineer to design and administer the replacement of our roof system over a wooden deck, which over the years has suffered serious water damage and created persistent leaks. The engineer has requested several investigative probes, which will cost us an additional $4,500. I know that doesn't sound like a lot for a $350,000 project, but the co-op's finances are tight, so we're wondering if probes are really necessary. What exactly are these probes?

What Happens to Your Building During an Engineer's Diagnostic Probe?

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on March 27, 2014

New York City

Engineers and architects routinely evaluate building systems by examining such visible components as the façade, roofing membrane, parapets, boilers, pipes, etc. But when seeking to determine whether a building's problems may be due to less visible underlying conditions investigative probes are often required.

New York City co-ops, condos and other buildings will soon be able to schedule Dept. of Buildings inspections online in an expansion of the NYC Development Hub. Called Hub Inspection Ready, the new service is scheduled to go live sometime this spring.

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.

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.

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.

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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