New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



The practice of turning apartments into hotel rooms or bed-and-breakfasts has become so common that it has attracted the attention of legislators, the State's bar association and the State attorney general. Co-op and condo board members, as well as apartment-owners concerned about non-vetted, non-background-checked strangers roaming halls and stairwells, should know what's going on, in order to keep the pressure on elected representatives.

Following the agreement last month between union leaders and representatives for New York City building-owners, including cooperatives and condominium associations, the new contract for the city's 30,000 union doormen, superintendents, handymen and porters has been formally ratified. It provides a cumulative 11.3 percent raise over the next four years, and keeps intact pension benefits and family health care fully paid by the employer.

Brick Underground’s Ask the Expert column has posed a Biblical question: “Can I be my brother’s keeper?” Or, more specifically, my father is threatening to throw my brother and me out, but I own half the co-op. What can he actually do?

The National Cooperative Bank (NCB) has announced it originated $18.6 million in new loans in April, with co-ops in Manhattan accounting for more than 50 percent of the bank’s financing activity in the region, according to Edward Howe III, Managing Director of the NCB New York office. Howe personally arranged the largest loan of the month, a $3.6 million first mortgage and a $750,000 line of credit for a co-op in Forest Hills, Queens. 

A five-member panel comprised of a condo-board president, a management-company executive and representatives of Con Edison, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York City Mayor's Office last week warned co-ops, condos and other residential buildings that incentives for green upgrading have limited lifespans, and that boards intending to participate in any particular program should do so before that incentive expires.

New York’s experience with hoarding — from the Collyer brothers to apartment dwellers today — is a complicated one. It’s made more difficult when the hoarder in question is not a renter but a member of a co-op or condominium. As one more tool in a board-member's arsenal, the company Address Our Mess has trained crews that are used to the unique challenges of the urban setting, such as tight corridors, elevators, narrow stairways and tightly packed rooms. 

With the condo and co-op world reeling from revelations of the Saparn Realty scandal, in which a top executive in the management firm allegedly stole more than $2 million from dozens of buildings, boards need to wake up. With co-op and condominium expenses and revenues alike higher than ever, the ever-growing amount of money flowing through New York City apartment buildings means temptation is higher than ever as well. Boards have never needed to be more vigilant and aware.

"People think, 'Oh, the managing agent is responsible for everything,'" says Richard Montanye, a certified public accountant (CPA) with Marin & Montanye, "and the reverse is actually true. The board has to stay on top of things." But how?

Co-op boards in buildings still containing grandfathered rent-stabilized tenants, take note: On the heels of Mayor Bill de Blasio's new housing plan for New York City, DNAinfo has an enraging report about the tens of thousands of rent-stabilized apartments that are actually occupied not by middle- and lower-class tenants but rather by such big earners as a former Philip Morris executive and an oral surgeon at New York Presbyterian. The fact that they can exploit legal loopholes is leading to serious debate about the City's deregulation laws and how this will affect the Mayor's housing initiative. 

The latest missile fired in the real-estate arms race appears to be who can offer the most amenities, according to Crain's New York Business. Developers are scrambling to offer newer, better and sometimes just more perks to potential renters and buyers in order make their new-construction projects stand out in a crowded marketplace. Co-op and condo boards and homeowners have to wonder how this will affect their own apartments' market if their buildings can't keep up.

Maria Civille's 116-unit co-op in Staten Island is considering a ban on smoking in the building. As with most boards, this means reading up on what other buildings are doing and how they're doing it, followed by internal discussion and then, almost inevitably, by rumors like "They're imposing $500 fines if they catch you smoking!" when all you're talking about is simply accepting non-smokers only in future apartment sales.

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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