New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



It's on the books, it gets little attention and yet it is one of a board's most powerful tools to make co-op or condo owners take responsibility for paying their monthly maintenance or common changes on time. Yet time and again, confusion over how late fees work ends up costing boards much time and many headaches, without solving the issue.

Only four people in the United States have been diagnosed with Ebola: three in Dallas and Dr. Craig Spencer, who is currently being treated in New York. The details of his case have sparked concerns among some board members, who are wondering how they ought to proceed should a resident be submitting him or herself to self-quarantine.

Well, well, well ... which is exactly what we're talking about. Geothermal wells, that is, which Habitat has written about since 2008. Why? Because depending on its viability for your particular co-op or condo's location, a geothermal energy project could save you enough bucks you'll want to yell, "Drill, baby, drill!" Although, as's handy primer on geothermal explains, these aren't necessarily wells in the traditional Lassie-has-to-rescue-Timmy-fro sense, but rather a series of underground pipes and pumps that circulate groundwater from the 55-degree good Earth in a way that helps regulate the temperature in your building. It's actually pretty fascinating. Plus, there are government incentive programs to help defray the cost of installation. Saving money through science ... we can dig it.

There is nothing certain but death and taxes. And there are peaceful deaths surrounded by loved ones and miserable, horrible deaths involving ... well, you don't want to know. Similarly, there are fair, reasonable taxes and then there's the tax structure visited upon New York co-ops and condos like a plague upon biblical Egypt. That's cooperatives and most condominiums are "Class 2" residential buildings, which pay ridiculously more in property taxes than do single- to four-family homes and brownstones, which are "Class 1," clearly in every sense of the term. Ronda Kaysen's latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times answers two reader's questions about this very topic, and concludes, in that oh-so-Timesian way, that, "The potential for baffling inequities is huge." Unfortunately, the potential for a fix anytime soon is miniscule.

No one like to imagine fraud or theft from a co-op or condo board director, property manager or vendor. But it happens, so make sure board members understand these basic protections.

A READER ASKS: Our co-op board has gotten some criticism lately about being too small and insular. Shareholders are starting to complain that we're not inclusive enough, and now some directors are using that as an opportunity to point out that they are a bit overworked. How many members do we need? Who should serve on the board? And how can we organize the board so that it represents all shareholders, works efficiently and preserves the knowledge obtained by existing board members?

Denise Savino-Erichsen, president of the multifamily-building laundry-room company Automatic Industries, has been named this year's Woman-Owned Business Champion by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

"I am honored to receive such recognition by the Queens Chamber," Savino-Erichsen said in a statement, joking that "I must come 'clean': Automatic Industries is a family affair. My father, our CEO and founder, had a great vision and formed a wonderful foundation. We also have a talented and dedicated team that enables us to maintain our success." 

Also honored were Daniel Zausner, chief operating office of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, given the Community Partner Awards; Edward Farrell, president of Resorts World Casino New York City, with the Regional Economic-Impact Award; Kevin Alexander, executive director of the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, with the Not-for-Profit Champion; and Marissa Shorenstein, president of AT&T New York, who was inducted into the Queens Chamber's Hall of Fame.

Are You Converting from Oil to Gas Heat? Then You'll Need a Chimney Liner

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on October 23, 2014

New York City

Property managers and board members are often surprised to learn that converting your co-op or condo's heating plant from oil to gas can require changes to the chimney. Most chimneys were built for oil heat, not gas. If this is the case with your building, then by law it will need a chimney liner to accommodate the new heating plant before you initiate gas service.

You might think that in a city where space for gardens and greenery is like the Holy Grail, greenhouses would add a lot of value to a co-op or condo unit. And you'd be right, so long as those greenhouses are waterproofed, installed properly, registered with Department of Buildings and issued permits as permanent structures.

But The New York Times reports that many of them don’t pass muster. To complicate matters further, the DOB next year plans to amend the Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), also known as Local Law 11, so that any "additional heated or cooled space made by a permanent balcony or terrace enclosure will be considered noncompliant if it doesn't have a permit."

Buildings won't necessarily be penalized for noncompliant balcony or terrace enclosures — co-op boards will be given the chance to either make offending enclosures legal or get rid of them altogether. But it still means having to wade through a lot of paperwork and angry greenhouse-owning shareholders and unit-owners — particularly in cases where the enclosures have to come down.

So Now You Need a 'Special Inspection' for Local Law 11 Work? What's That?

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on May 14, 2013

New York City

A reader asks: Our co-op is undertaking an exterior repair program, which includes Local Law 11/98 repairs and roof replacement. Our engineering firm informed us that as part of the project, we are required to have "special inspections" conducted on structural steel, concrete masonry walls, brick veneers and other construction elements. Fellow board members and I don't recall having to do special inspections on previous repair work at the building. Are these inspection requirements new? What do they entail?

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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