New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



New York City co-ops and condos with at least 15 full- and part-time employees must offer them paid sick leave under a newly passed City law. Under the mandate, employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, capped at a maximum 40 hours, or five days, per calendar year. As well, buildings with fewer employers must offer the same amount of unpaid sick leave. Depending on the number of workers, the provisions take effect in 2014 and 2015, leaving boards and other businesses time to plan.

Aug. 13, 2013 — Buildings over six stories tall in New York City generally contain a water tower; with lower buildings, the City's water system has just enough pressure to reach the top floor. If your building has a water tower, here's a quick primer plus a video to tell you all the basics that every condo or co-op board member needs to know.

Promoting staff based on how popular someone is with the residents, rather than on strictly professional criteria and experience, is an invitation to problems — and there could be no greater example than the experience of one co-op board in Freeport, Long Island, when a staffer's popularity allowed him to buy two apartments and eventually win election to the five-member board, where he and two cronies gained control of the building.

A bill introduced in Congress Wednesday by New York Rep. Steve Israel (D - 3rd District) would make housing cooperatives and condominium associations eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.

Co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners themselves already are eligible for such funds, with many such homeowners after superstorm Sandy having received up to $31,900 each for emergency housing not covered by insurance. Homeowner associations, however, cannot apply for FEMA grants, which co-op and condo boards say are needed to repair common areas as well as such physical-plant necessities as boilers.

What's the process for working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the New York City agency established to protect the city's architectural heritage shortly after the 1963 demolition of the original Penn Station? Here's a quick, handy summary. If you're in a landmarked building or district and your condo or co-op board is contemplating exterior work, print this out and distribute it to your board members so that everyone will have the basic facts. Trust us: That'll save a lot of time and questions.

Popularity is a funny thing. It can be the result of legitimate virtues or the byproduct of shrewd self-promotion. When it comes to hiring, firing, and promoting staff, co-op and condo boards need to know how to tell the difference. "If somebody is popular, it's usually for one of two reasons," says Steve Greenbaum, director of property management at Mark Greenberg Real Estate. "Either he's reliable, or he does people special favors. There are a million little things staff people can do. Boards need to ask: Is he popular for the right reasons, or is he just a schmoozer?"

It's not a theoretical question. The board at a 110-unit Brooklyn co-op learned the hard way that letting popular sentiment trump hard logic can have dire consequences.

It might not seem as big a dilemma as the need to replace windows or other big capital projects, but in terms of your apartments' market value and your building's first impression on visitors and prospective buyers alike, a dilapidated or out-of-date lobby can be a kiss of death — or at least a hug of disappointment. Yet as many board members know all too well, lobby renovation can be one of the most contentious and time-consuming projects in any condo or co-op board's tenure. It can seem like a task of unmanageable proportions.

But it's not. You simply need to do break it down into steps. Just make sure they're the right steps.

State and local bills have been introduced by legislators that would mandate that co-op boards given an answer on a prospective purchasers within a reasonable amount of time. In part one of this series, we laid out the issues; in part two, we looked at how such a program is working in Suffolk County. Here in part three, we hear what attorneys, co-op board members and others have to say about whether the law is needed, we track where these bills are at the moment, and we look ahead to some possible consequences of this proposed legislation.

New York City and State legislators have introduced bills that would institute timelines for when co-op boards have to reach an admissions decision, with one bill that would mandate boards either give a reason why they rejected a potential buyer or swear that the reasons for rejection were not based on discrimination. 

Are these reasonable? For a real-world example, we can look to Suffolk County, Long Island, which in 2009 enacted a co-op admissions law with both time clocks and required reasons for rejection.

Devicka Doobay figured she had a great shot at a $170,000 Queens co-op when she applied in 2010. Her credit score was well over 700, her income more than $66,000 and her only debt a car loan for $15,000. However, when she got turned down without even an admissions interview, she had the nagging feeling it might have had something to do with her name. "Everything was good, I had all the documents, and they wouldn't even give me a meeting," she says.

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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