New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



In work, school and co-op and condo boards, we are thrust into positions where the concept of "getting along" is required of us. In many ways, a cooperative housing board or condominium association is like a microcosm of every other type of "forced community." You are going to get all kinds of personality types meshed together to work towards the common good. Unfortunately, some of these personalities do not always get along.

All too often, when co-op / condo boards and other buildings owners decide to go green, the first thing they want to do is install solar panels. But it doesn't matter how many solar panels are on a roof if the electricity they generate is wasted somewhere else in a building. Which makes more sense? Spending thousands of dollars on solar panels to keep lights on 24 hours a day, or having a green super implement strategies for efficient lighting and lighting controls?

Following public hearings from April 23 to 27, the New York City Water Board today approved the seven percent rate increase in water rates that it had earlier proposed, in addition to raising fees for certain services.

The increase, while the smallest in seven years, is the city's 16th annual hike for metered and unmetered water rates. The new rates for commercial and residential properties including co-ops and condominiums go into effect July 1.

Other changes included a rise in the Service Call Fee for an inspection at the request of a customer where the complaint is found to be outside the Water Board's jurisdiction. This jumped from $75 to a maximum of $450.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for proposing water rates, while the Water Board is responsible for establishing the rate following the proposal and subsequent public hearings.

"The 7 percent rate increase proposed for Fiscal Year 2013 is a 25 percent reduction from the 9.3 percent rate increase projected at this time last year," DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said in a statement.

"When an agency is proud that you only have to raise your rates by seven percent, then we know we have a problem," Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder said at the Queens public hearing on April 26.

The Water Board has posted the DEP's proposed Water And Wastewater Rate Schedule that the Board approved.

From their inception, housing co-ops have had procedures for screening — and interviewing — prospective shareholders, to ensure that they would be able to meet their financial obligations to the cooperative and that they understood and would meet their responsibilities to the community: to be good neighbors and to take part in the running of their cooperative. Provided that the co-op board doesn't discriminate against protected categories, it has the right to reject a prospective purchaser. This process helps populate a cooperative with individuals committed to participation and cooperation.

UPDATED 4:04 p.m. — A New York City bill requiring that landlords, including co-op boards and condo associations, disclose their anti-smoking policies to residents and prospective renters and buyers was introduced at an April 18 City Council meeting and forwarded to the Committee on Housing and Buildings for discussion.

The bill, Intro. 0833-2012, was not placed on the committee's agenda either for its meeting yesterday (April 30) nor its meeting tomorrow (May 2). Committee chairperson Erik Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) is the bill's chief sponsor, with five Council co-sponsors, all by request of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In December 2009, the New York City Council amended the administrative code to require owners of real property to submit a report to the city, benchmarking the energy and water efficiency of buildings. This was part of four legislative components known as the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan designed to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions from New York buildings. These laws require annual energy efficiency benchmarking that will be disclosed to the public and mandate a set of energy-efficient upgrades. The first component of these laws is known as Local Law 84 of 2009, which requires the benchmarking of buildings. This is probably the law your friend was referring to in your conversation.

An estimated more than 900 co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners gathered at a Queens forum and an adjacent movie theater's simulcast on April 12 to protest what they and politicians call an inequitable property-tax system, which taxes co-ops and condos at a far higher rate than any other residential property.

... the Sheffield condominium's male prostitute is getting evicted, but not for, like, a month, and there's visiting-dog trouble at a Riverdale co-op. For co-op and condo boards, we have another case of going out of your way to make life hell for older residents, and an expert says a co-op board president can let his cousin sublet longer than other shareholders can.

As a native Californian, Scott Miller says recycling is in his blood. So, it made his blood boil whenever he would see plastic laundry detergent jugs tossed into the trash bins in the laundry room at his Lower East Side co-op.

"The recycling area was just around the corner, but without signage and without an opportunity to make it easy to recycle in that area, it was all just going into a landfill," says Miller, who lives at the 1,728-unit Seward Park Cooperative.

It was one of the things that led him to volunteer last summer to take part in the Apartment Building Recycling Initiative, a two-hour program offered monthly by the city's Department of Sanitation (DSNY). There he learned about quick and often free fixes that can increase the amount of recycling and ensure that the proper things are going into recycling bins.

Committees are an invaluable tool in condominium associations and cooperative housing corporations, where it can be hard to get enough volunteers sufficiently capable of dedicating the time, attention and skills required to serve on the board. As well, since it's often effective to have a small board, having committees can extend the board's reach, ability and effectiveness. This allows the benefits of a smaller board without sacrificing the distribution of workload that comes with a larger board.

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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