New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Does your super say he feels not so super on more days that seem reasonable? Most employees don't abuse paid or unpaid sick days — which most New York City employers must offer — but co-op and condo boards can attest that there there are those who do. How can you stop it? Writing on, attorney Joanna R. Vilos of Holland & Hart offers six simple tips to help curb fakers. And if you don't know what a PTO System is, well, it's about time you learned! Our favorite: "Tip #5: Adopt Sick Leave Incentive or Attendance Awards," followed by a half-dozen interesting examples like "Free lunch or a gift card for each quarter that an employee has perfect attendance" and "A floating personal day off with pay for every six months without calling in sick." Say, we're feeling better already!

The co-op board of a 22-unit on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan was facing a problem. One of the shareholders had petitioned the board to be allowed to install a washer and dryer in his apartment. While the board was sympathetic – the shareholder lived on the sixth floor, the machines were in the basement, and the building had no elevator – a clause in the laundry contract prohibited the board from "encouraging" shareholders to install their own private washing machines and dryers.

What's a board to do?

Co-op and condo buildings that aren't reporting income from the cell-phone antennas on their property may be facing increased scrutiny, now that a new report says New York City has missed an estimated $24 million in property taxes.

But since the Department of Finance (DOF) disagrees with the report, will anyone actually be bloodhounding for unreported cell-tower income? And just how much income does the average building make from leasing cell-phone tower space, anyway? The city's got some eye-opening estimates for that part — and makes dubious assumptions about what you may be earning.

A READER ASKS:  Do we have to report cell-phone antennas on our roof as income? We never have so far, all the years we've had cell antenna in place, and nothing has happened. What can we expect if the city finds out we haven't been reporting this income? 

October 15, 2010 — The New York City Department of Buildings appears to be on a crackdown regarding Local law 11 repairs, as reported in the October issue of Habitat. Now it appears that its sister agency, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, is doing likewise over a small, science fictiony-looking piece of plumbing equipment called a backflow-prevention device. And if your co-op or condo doesn't have these installed where you should, backflow could turn into cash flow – from your bank account to the city's coffers. Also, a shutoff of your water supply. Ouch.
Not all co-ops or condos need a backflow-prevention device. But how do you know if yours does? And if so, what do you need to do?

What to bequeath your co-op apartment to a sibling after you're gone? That grave undertaking could be the death of you, since any assignment of your co-op shares to anyone other than a child or a spouse has to be approved by the board (and sometimes even then). How can you help make that happen, so that you can rest in peace?'s "Ask the Expert" column unearths advice from two top real-estate attorneys, who explain the little-known fact that, one puts it, a board can't "unreasonably withhold a bequest to a financially responsible member of the shareholder's family." For more and for details, vault over to the article — it's anything but crypt-ic! (And later check out the Habitat article "Transferring Co-op Shares After a Death.")

Children being turned away from playrooms, seniors denied use of the gym and developer Extell's infamous "poor door" at 40 Riverside Boulevard: Such refusal of amenities to rent-stabilized and subsidized residents in some high-end co-ops, condos and rental buildings are prompting legislators to seek laws preventing such practices. Ronda Kaysen's eye-opening article in The New York Times reports on several cases, which critics say divides communities and turns average working people, from teachers to entertainers to retirees, into pariahs in their own homes. What do advocates say? According to the head of one development company it's because such people may — may — bring down property values. How exactly a police officer, nurse, social worker or graphic designer brings down property values, nobody is saying.

A READER ASKS: I want to perform some renovations in my co-op. I know that I'll probably have to fill out an alteration agreement, but what should I look for on the forms? What kind of restrictions or details am I facing?

Joanne Kaufman's New York Times article about families who become friends with the super and other building staff — to the point of having dinner, drinks or even a Hamptons weekend together — initially gives a warm and fuzzy feeling about the brotherhood of man. But as Dan Wurtzel, president of one the largest property-management firms in New York City, notes, this can "foster an environment of favoritism, a perception that not all residents are treated equally." Two leadership consultants agree, saying, "It can put the professionalism of the staff into question and create discomfort for observers because the roles of the players are now unclear.” It's a tricky issue, since true friendship is one of life's rare treasures. What do you think? Comment below.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the longstanding Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which requires an employer to treat a pregnant employee the same as other worker. But a July 14 guideline issued by the EEOC states that if an accommodation is being given to a non-pregnant disabled employee with similar ability to work, then even a non-disabled pregnant employee can request the same accommodation. There's more to it, and it's complicated even for an attorney, as Doug Oldham of Barnes & Thornburg explains at the legal-issues site If your building has any pregnant employees, such as desk staff or security, condo and co-op boards should keep this new guidance in mind.

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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