New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



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.

What is it about holiday decorations that set us at odds with one another? At a small condo in Brooklyn, a unit owner decorated the building’s outdoor handrails with Christmas lights after getting the board’s blessing. According to another unit owner, there are so many lights the handrails are unusable. The unit-owner asked the board to remove lights from at least one of the railings, but nothing happened. A call to 311 proved fruitless as well. "I am not interested in causing a lot of fuss, but only want to avoid injury. If the board does not take action to remove them, what rights do I have?" In the latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times, Ronda Kaysen explains that the unit owner basically has one of two options. Given the board's approval, the unit-owner may have to live with the lights until the holidays are over. We're guessing that's not exactly what the unit-owner wants to hear. The second option is to create a lot of fuss. "Owners are required to safely maintain their property. So, it is possible that a city inspector would find the condition creates a safety hazard and issue a violation," says Kaysen. "Call 311 back. Explain that you think that the condo board is not safely maintaining the building, and that you would like the handrail inspected." And if that doesn't work? Appeal to the (now probably not-too-pleased) board pointing out the safety concerns, or… suck it up until the holidays are over. Nearly there.

A READER ASKS: I'm a new addition to my co-op board. Our building façade has several cracks, and we are considering the possible fixes. I'm concerned that we may settle on a Band-Aid repair that will fix the problem cosmetically while neglecting a larger problem that will only get worse and costlier with time. I don't know much about building construction to support my concerns. Can you give me any information that would help sway my fellow board members to investigate the problem further and not settle for the easiest and cheapest solution? I don't want to come off as pushy or overeager.

Tick tock goes the clock, the New Year is nearly here. And with an eye toward the near future, DNAinfo asked some real estate experts what we can expect from New York City's housing market in 2015. The first thing that caught our eye was the shift in focus to smaller spaces — and we're not talking just the rental market. Things are about to shrink in the luxury market as well, thanks, in part, to a "slowdown in sales for pricey new condos." The bottom line is that "feeling less urgency, wealthy buyers are becoming choosier." Hmm. Perhaps that sales slowdown is one of the reasons why another group of real estate experts earlier this month talked a lot of smack about co-ops to another publication, in an effort to generate a looooot of buzz about condos.

Window replacement is an expensive capital improvement. Replacement windows, unlike windows in a newly constructed building, have to be custom-made. However, the hefty sticker price doesn't mean boards can't get attractive, efficient windows at reasonable prices. It comes down to knowing what you need and having an architect or engineer advise you and prepare specifications. There are a wide variety of window types — not to mention the size, shape, and thickness of the glass and frames — to consider. And don't forget about the state and city rules and regulations that will ultimately drive your choice.

If landing a co-op is on your list of New Year's resolutions, you'll want to check out this piece of helpful advice from Yes, a lot of the grueling application process is made up of your financial details — to prove you can afford the place. But it's also who you know, or who knows you, rather. Recommendation letters are a huge deal, and it matters who vouches for you. explains that a letter from a doorman, who may be angling for a decent holiday tip, will probably not carry the same weight as one from an employer or from someone who lives in your building and happens to serve on the board. Good advice notwithstanding, what's really worth checking out in this item is the collection of letters from buyers who aced their applications and got their co-ops. What better sample than the real thing (with identifying details blacked out, of course)?


'Twas the Night Before Meeting

Few things signal the holidays so much as Christmas carols and other songs of the season. As Christmas Eve falls upon us and we prepare to spend time at home and hearth with friends, family and maybe a wee dram of eggnog with a little something in it to ward off the chill, let us gather 'round with our fellows and sing these new carols made just for co-op and condo board members and homeowners. So go deck the halls ... just make sure you've gotten the renovation committee's OK first!

A New York State law that went into effect Dec. 3, requiring all residential leases to contain a notice about the building's sprinkler system, appears to mandate that even co-op proprietary leases must be amended to reflect the language change. The new law also impacts leases offered by condominium homeowners renting their apartments as well as subleases offered by rental tenants and by co-op shareholders.

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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