New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



New Yorkers are continually assaulted by sound — traffic, construction, the neighbor's music, you name it. And noise is an especially sensitive issue within cooperatives and condominiums, where complaints about noisy neighbors can create disputes among residents. Unfortunately, noise is a highly subjective issue, and conflicts can become extremely difficult to resolve. The legal system may be the only remedy to the situation, but this should be a last resort.

A READER ASKS: Our co-op desperately needs to replace our windows — some of them won't stay open; others won't closing properly. The building is 100 years old and still has the original windows. We know that it's going to be a difficult process, but what can we expect? 

HABITAT ANSWERS: Many buildings are facing similar problems, as old windows reach the end of their useful lives. Since repair, replacement and everything that goes with that — type, material, color, cost, dealing with contractors and shareholders — are the responsibility of the board, it might be time for you to do a little window shopping. 

So who's responsible for eradicating mice in your co-op apartment when your cat's too lazy to do the job? That depends, say legal experts in's latest "Ask an Expert" column. In most cases, the little rodents are emanating from one of the common areas, usually the garbage or compactor room. And co-ops, since they operate under a proprietary lease, are subject to such rental statutes as those involving the warrant of habitability, meaning the board has to keep the building up to a certain legal standard of livability. On the other hand, if you're a hoarder or just a really, really, really messy person, getting rid of your mice might not be the board's responsibility. 

Regardless of what type of emergency for which you're preparing, the hallmarks of your plan should be communication, organization and clarity. If everyone knows what his or her role is in an emergency — including the property manager, board members, shareholders, and building staff — then executing that plan becomes much simpler.

HELOC may sound like a successor to Marvel Comics' espionage agency SHIELD — and Headquarters for Eurasian, Latin-American and Oceanic Control does sound pretty cool — but it stands for, rather, "home equity line of credit." In the case of co-ops, says a National Cooperative Bank loan officer writing in, this differs from a traditional mortgage refinance in that, first, co-op loans aren't mortgages, and, second, you can borrow small amounts, effectively treating your apartment "like a credit card." It's also unlike a traditional refinancing, he says, in that it only costs only a few hundred bucks to set up. While some co-op boards naysay HELOCs, most, he asserts, will OK them up to a certain percentage of your apartment’s appraised value.

Committees can be an excellent resource for condo and co-op boards — using committees increases the scope of the work that a board can do by increasing the number of people available to investigate the issues. Committees also are a training ground for future directors, and are a good way to increase a familial feeling among residents. But committees can sometimes become unwieldy. In fact, for a committee system to work, the board must ask a number of questions.

When a co-op or condo board is spending money to constantly repair the elevators, it's time to start thinking about an upgrade. But giving up on stopgap repairs on your co-op or condo's elevators and tackling an upgrade can be a mammoth undertaking. Without a plan in place and a consultant to help oversee the process, boards can quickly become vulnerable to expensive renovation pitfalls. Fortunately, there are proven practices that can help boards avoid that.

The Habitat Management Survey: Crisis Communication in Structural Emergency

Written by Josh Koppel. First in a series of exclusive Habitat Management Survey responses. on August 04, 2014

New York City

I manage an eight-building complex built in the late 1800s. One building was a carriage house; one was a Civil War army hospital. In 2013, an exterminator discovered extensive termite damage to support beams in every basement. We immediately hired an engineer to assess the damage and gathered estimates for repairs. As emergency installation of support jacks began; residents protested the noise, dust, inconvenience and cost.

The Habitat Management Survey: Helping to Revise the House Rules

Written by Gerard J. Picaso. Second in a series of exclusive Habitat Management Survey responses. on August 11, 2014

New York City

One of the most difficult tasks a board can undertake is rewriting the house rules. Putting aside updating the archaic terms and words and correcting punctuation and spelling, there is always a difference of opinion on how to run the building. From dog rules to guest policy, the divergence of ideas can be staggering.

The Habitat Management Survey: New, Improved Board Responds to Residents

Written by Bram G. Fierstein. The latest in a series of exclusive Habitat Management Survey responses. on August 18, 2014

New York City

At last year's annual meeting, the newly elected board was faced with a group of dissatisfied shareholders. They expressed complaints concerning the board's lack of communication about the slow turnover in apartment sales. The board members then undertook several initiatives to address shareholders' needs.

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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