New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

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 Lexology.com. 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.

When superstorm Sandy hit, co-op and condo owners and many others trying to evacuate and later return home found endless lines at the few gas stations that hadn't completely run out of fuel. Even some emergency vehicles faced gasoline shortages. In response, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has just launched two initiatives under the heading Fuel NY. It includes the nation's first State Strategic Gasoline Reserve and the requirement that about 1,000 gas stations in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County and Rockland County have backup-power generators. The reserve — nearly three million gallons of fuel stored at Northville Industries' terminal in Suffolk County — will be sold to distributors at market prices to provide it to emergency responders, government customers and retail gasoline outlets during emergencies.

With very rare exception, all underlying mortgages have prepayment penalties. Many people think that this is unfair and that every borrower should be able to repay the loan whenever the borrower wants without penalty. From the borrower’s perspective, free prepayment makes perfect sense. However, from the lender’s point of view, it does not. To be fair, if the borrower can prepay whenever interest rates go down, then the lender should be able to demand loan repayment whenever interest rates go up. Most borrowers would strongly object to that.

That the Federal National Mortgage Association, popularly known as Fannie Mae, is cracking down on housing loans isn't news to co-op and condo apartment buyers. But some fine print might be: If there's a lawsuit against the co-op or condo building for an unspecified amount, and the building's insurance can't or won't cover it, Fannie Mae will not back your loan — and you can say goodbye to that apartment. So what exactly's going on?

A co-op / condo price overview in BrickUnderground.com, pulling together facts and figures from a multitude of reports, finds the median price of a Manhattan apartment is now $910,000. It's hard to compare that with the other boroughs, where single-family houses figure far more into the mix. So keeping that in mind, the median sales price of a Brooklyn home jumped 4.5 percent from a year ago, to $575,000. Queens, oddly, actually dropped 9 percent, to $355,000 from $390,000. So where do Staten Island and The Bronx fit into this? Nobody seems to be mentioning them, so that may be were apartment-hunters' true bargains await.

Many buildings battered by superstorm Sandy have begun to consider installing flood doors, flood gates and other forms of flood barriers to prevent surging water from entering. Yet some New York cooperatives and condominiums, among others, have been stymied by the fact their buildings extend out to the property line — and so any flood barrier would have to be on a City-owned sidewalk. Local Law 109 / 2013 allows certain aspects of that, but the entirety of it now hinges on a pair of rule changes proposed by the City's Department of Transportation.

Surprisingly, no it isn't, according to BrickUnderground.com's "Ask the Experts" column. In this particular instance, a condominium doorman signed for a UPS package, which both that delivery service and the retailer confirmed was delivered to the building. Yet between the front desk and the purchaser's apartment, it vanished. A real estate broker at Time Equities and an insurance broker at Gotham Brokerage offer suggestions on what to do next. 

A READER ASKS: Our board is seriously considering installing a playground in an empty lot next to our building. I'm concerned about what it will mean for myself and the other residents that don't have children. How will this addition affect us? Should we be trying to stop it?

Do you live in the apartment on W. 109th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue where young actors Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall were roommates? Or how about the one on W. 89th Street that Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito shared in the '60s? Maybe it was the spot of a murder or another newsworthy event. Inquiring minds want to know. And now you can do, advises Amy Zimmer in DNAInfo.com, where she recommends a host of resources from the old standby — phone books — to New York City databases to more obscure ports of call. Will it make your apartment worth more? Probably not. But it could make it a lot more interesting.

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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