New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



"What's the old saying?" I asked attorney Bruce Cholst, as we talked about current legal issues. "A man is a fool who…?"

"A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client," Cholst replied immediately.

Worst-Case Scenario: Planning Ahead in Case of a Service-Workers Union Strike

Written by Bill Morris and Jason Carpenter on April 10, 2014

New York City

With an April 20 deadline looming in contract talks between the service-workers union and representatives for New York City building owners, savvy boards and property managers have been preparing for a worst-case scenario.

"You really do have to start preparing early," says Joan Konow, a principal in the management firm Key Real Estate Associates. "You can't wait till the last minute — even though that's what both sides do in the contract talks." Dan Wurtzel, president of the property-management firm FirstService Residential, agrees. "In order to be properly prepared, you have to assume there will be a strike," he says. So what exactly should condo and co-op boards do?

Homeowners often claim that they did not receive notice from the condo / co-op board or management of a delinquency in their common charges or monthly maintenance. Sometimes this assertion comes up after the board files suit against the homeowner.  Fortunately, the "Mailbox Rule" can allow you to overcome this allegation.

Leases of stores in the retail portions of residential condominiums need to be significantly revised from the standard form used by many lawyers. Why? Simply put, a shopping center lease will not work in a condominium context. The boards of condominiums containing retail space should be sure their broker's term sheet and their lawyer's draft lease treats these basic condominium issues.

EXCLUSIVE: Chief Negotiators of Union Contract Talks Explain What to Expect

Written by Bill Morris and Jason Carpenter on April 03, 2014

New York City

Will there be a strike? That's the question on the minds of many New York City co-op and condo board members as most of the service workers in the buildings they run seek a new labor deal with the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations (RAB). The current four-year contract for Local 32BJ workers — porters, handymen, doormen, and supers — ends on April 20. It deals with a host of hot-button issues, including pay rate, health care and pension. If contract talks stall, the most disruptive effect for local resident-owners would be a work stoppage.

I'd probably be dead right now. Maybe you, too.

That's because in all the years I've been writing about co-ops and condos, including fire-exit regulations and Fire Dept. inspections, I probably would have headed down the stairs at The Strand. That's what Daniel McClung did during the blaze at that W. 43rd Street condominium on Jan. 5. Knowing only that his building was on fire, he tried to escape from the 32nd floor — and ran headlong into smoke from the 20th that killed him.

But I mean — it's a fire. You're supposed to get out, right?

A trio of New York City statutes instituted last year are designed to make it easier for co-op and condo boards and other building owners and managers to address the extreme-weather effects of climate change, as well as better prepare for emergencies generally. We've written about Local Law 110/2013, which requires, among other things, drinking-water stations that draw separate from the main water line; and Local Law 111/2013, which addresses the complicated rules that govern backup-power generators.

The third leg of this triangle is Local Law 109/2013, which helps make it easier for buildings to install flood barriers.

Five Things Your Co-op / Condo Board and Neighbors Won't Tell You

Written by Donna DiMaggio Berger on March 28, 2014

New York City

Editor's note: All boards and buildings have their little secrets — and some are more common than others. So who better than longtime condominium and homeowner-association attorney and regular Habitat contributor Donna DiMaggio Berger to offer five examples each of things condo and co-op boards won't tell homeowners and things your own neighbors won't tell you. See if any of these sound familiar…


Ask the Engineer: Diagnostic Probes Should Be Nothing Alien to Boards

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on March 06, 2014

New York City

A reader asks: I sit on the co-op board of a six-story building in Inwood. We recently hired an engineer to design and administer the replacement of our roof system over a wooden deck, which over the years has suffered serious water damage and created persistent leaks. The engineer has requested several investigative probes, which will cost us an additional $4,500. I know that doesn't sound like a lot for a $350,000 project, but the co-op's finances are tight, so we're wondering if probes are really necessary. What exactly are these probes?

What Happens to Your Building During an Engineer's Diagnostic Probe?

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on March 27, 2014

New York City

Engineers and architects routinely evaluate building systems by examining such visible components as the façade, roofing membrane, parapets, boilers, pipes, etc. But when seeking to determine whether a building's problems may be due to less visible underlying conditions investigative probes are often required.

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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