New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Sewer-Pipe Primer: Two Engineers Explain When to Repair or to Replace

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on August 07, 2012

New York City

Sewage backups, which can occur primarily in your co-op or condo's basement, pose health risks caused by contamination from harmful bacteria and mold. A blocked or broken sewer line is the obvious culprit. Here's what you need to know about your co-op's or your condo's sewer lines so that you can make an informed choice as to when and how to repair or replace them.

If your condo or co-op board is in a fog about FOG, then read on —  and save yourself some headaches down the road.

FOG is the acronym used by the city's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for describing the ingredients that are part of a common problem: fats, oil and grease. The difficulty arises when cooks deposit any (or all) of those in their kitchen drains: With more than 22,000 food service establishments serving over eight million New Yorkers, food remnants invariably get flushed into the sewers. Both restaurants and households discharge wastewater containing fats, oil, and grease into more than 7,400 miles of New York City public sewers.

"Real estate taxes have suddenly become the highest line item in a co-op's budget, and that being the case, boards should understand the [appeals] process," says attorney Eric Weiss, a tax specialist and partner at Tuchman Korngold Weiss Lippman & Gelles. "And they should be able to participate in the process if they feel that's important. I think it is important, from a budgetary standpoint."

It's not just a tax attorney saying that. Bob Friedrich, board president of the 110-building, 10,000-resident Glen Oaks Village co-op in Queens, agrees. "I think it's very important that all co-ops understand why they must appeal the valuations assessed against their properties," he says. This is also true of condo boards, which file appeals on behalf of the individually taxed apartment-owners, and for the condominium association's property taxes.


Many small co-op and condo buildings are hiring solely "back-office only" (BOO) services, performed either by a managing agent or an outside firm. The upside is that the building can get crucial financial work done and pay far less than it would pay for full management. The downside is that condo and co-op boards sometimes don't get what they expected or expected more than was promised.

Back-office services are typically the simple financial transactions required to keep a building afloat: collecting maintenance, paying bills and providing the board with a monthly record of the funds that come in and go out. Most BOO managing agents will perform additional services for a fee.

The Common Sense "Secrets" to Running Good Board Meetings

Written by Lori Miles, CAM on August 10, 2012

New York City

Condo and co-op board meetings should be productive, efficient gatherings where the board conducts business and doesn't meet to socialize. Are you getting the most out of your meetings? If not, consider a few of these things — from how to set an agenda to how you treat fellow board members and your managing agent.

The situation was both simple and complex. Simple, because the elderly woman had a dog — a clear violation of the co-op's rules. Complex, because her son told the co-op board that his mother had gotten the dog on doctor's orders. She was clinically depressed, you see, and the dog cheered her up. He said the board was in the wrong.

As it happened, the board in this case was anything but wrong — and its intervention may have helped save the woman, the dog and the co-op alike.

When you live in a co-op or condominium, the board of directors must regularly deal with owners who have a bone to pick about a neighbor's behavior. Whatever the complaint, the first question you and the co-op / condo board should ask yourselves is whether the issue is one that the board should be involved in at all. If an owner's behavior doesn't violate the governing documents or proprietary lease, then the board generally has no business butting in, no matter how loudly another owner complains. Some issues are merely neighbor-to-neighbor and not the board's concern.


July 20, 2009 — Somewhere in Queens where Elmhurst and Middle Village meet, just south of the Long Island Expressway, one average, everyday co-op has made itself appreciate in value in a way that any other co-op or condo can, well, appreciate — and emulate. The Bradford House co-op made a creative capital improvement of the kind that, it turns out, banks encourage and residents love. Not just appreciate or accept logically, like a roof renovation. Love. See the pictures at the end of this article if you don't believe us.

Years of mistrust between the holder of unsold shares and the resident shareholders of a cooperative came to a boil at their recent annual meeting. The holder, who owned a large percentage of the corporation's shares, previously voted for the same resident board members for the past five years. A group of resident shareholders, angered over a series of maintenance increases and assessments, wanted a change but, because of historically low resident turnout, could accomplish that only if they were able to collect a large number of proxies beforehand.

When it comes to selling your co-op or condo apartment, "A low appraisal can blow up a deal," says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich. If a buyer needs 80 percent financing and the appraisal is $50,000 less than the selling price, the buyer will need to come up with extra cash or walk away. But if the seller lowers the price to save the deal, a board concerned with property values in other units could reject it.

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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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