New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

Ever since New York City largely dodged the bullet of Hurricane Irene last summer, people have been wondering whether the realities of global warming and climate change are going to turn these rare and extreme weather events into "the new normal" for our area. Well, with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy this week, those questions are only intensifying.

It's clear that the high winds from the storm and the resulting surge of water that breached seawalls all over the Northeast overwhelmed us — from individual buildings to large government agencies, everyone was powerless to stop the devastation. In the coming days, the communities affected by the storm will have their hands full just getting things back to normal. But when that arduous job is done, it's time for co-op and condo boards to take the long view and do everything they can to be prepared for the next emergency.

After the annual meeting and the introduction of new members to the co-op board of directors, there was a change in the majority group on the board — and, as is often the case, disputes arose about policies and decisions. A faction of the board chose not to attend meetings so that the two-thirds requirement for quorum would not be met and the board would be unable to make decisions or pass any resolutions.

A condominium client of ours had a building with abandoned units, some in the midst of bank foreclosure. The unit-owners were scattered among various locations. There were questions as to whether, even if these owners were located, any of them maintained any assets that could be executed. The unpaid common charges connected with these units mounted, generating a growing deficit and jeopardizing the scope and quality of the client's services and maintenance.

Our client was a new condominium board in a recently constructed building that suffered from serious Local Law 11 problems arising from defective construction. We counseled the board to retain an engineer to determine the cause of the cracking in the building’s exterior façade bricks. The cause was determined to be improper construction, contrary to filed building plans, which put extra stresses on bricks. Now, once you find that out, what do you do?

In 1978, Harry and Wanda purchased the stock and proprietary lease allocated to their apartment. In 1979, they had a daughter, Darlene. In 2005, Harry died, and in 2010 so did Wanda. In 2012, Darlene asked the co-op board to transfer ownership to her. The managing agent checked the building's proprietary lease and found that a child of a deceased shareholder had broad rights to have the apartment transferred to herself. The agent confirmed that the stock and lease had been owned by Harry and Wanda and prepared a new stock certificate and lease.

In the process, the agent almost caused an expensive lawsuit that the co-op probably would have lost.

There are many buildings in which apartments are owned by sponsors / investors so that they have a sufficient number of votes to elect people to the co-op board. Thus, we often see situations where the residential board members hold minority positions. Since sponsors can — and regularly do — control boards for a period of years regardless of whether they own many (or sometimes any) units, there is often the question of whether the residential owners are adequately represented.

A large developer was/is building a new condominium building right next to my co-op client. It involves adding more floors and building on the property line between the two properties. All of this came to a head around Christmas of 2011. The developer hoped the co-op board would quickly sign whatever access agreement was presented to it without showing the plans to my client. The developer was also threatening litigation claiming it had a right to install bridging on the co-op's property at the roof level.

The board at one of our co-ops is very split. Board members argue about everything. There was even a problem in agreeing to refinance the mortgage on the property. The co-op board took additional funds from the lender to pay for capital improvements for the next few years. Two of the board members were against it, claiming that the additional money and the additional debt service were unnecessary.

Now, two years later, the president of the co-op (who was president then, too, and a proponent of the transaction) is selling her unit and moving. The two board members who were very much against the refinancing are now refusing to consent to the sale even though the purchaser is well qualified. And wait till you hear their state reason for objecting to the sale.

The New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit organization founded by signer-actress Bette Midler to help add arbor and foliage to New York City, is spearheading a tree giveaway Sunday, Oct. 21, at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx. The effort, in partnership with the City of New York, is part of the MillionTreesNYC initiative to plant and care for one million new trees throughout New York City’s five boroughs by 2017.  

A co-op board learned that a convicted sex offender (and son of a former board president) had moved into the building after being evicted at his former residence. The board wrestled with the issues of the extent to which the board was obligated to inform the building’s other residents, balancing the interests of all other residents against the privacy interests of the individual and his father. 

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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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