New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021



Don’t mention this to the kids but sometimes it does pay to watch television. As Peter Goldfinger — board president at Contello Towers 2 in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn — recalls, it was through TV commercials that residents were alerted about a way for their building to save money on heating bills.

Those TV ads – for subsidized heating oil from CITGO and Boston-based Citizens Energy — set off a chain reaction: shareholders informed the board, the board informed building management, and building management looked into the grant program.

For nearly a decade, NYSERDA has led the charge in the green energy business for multifamily buildings, offering buildings hefty incentives for making improvements that reduce a building's energy usage. Unfortunately, rebates are dwindling, and there are other changes on the horizon — the application process, for example, could change or be phased out entirely. No, it's not easy going green. But now, Brooklyn Community Board 6 has launched Solarize Brooklyn CB6, a limited-time group purchasing program led by Sustainable CUNY and the NY Solar Partnership with New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor's Office of Sustainability. The program is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the NY-Sun Initiative and is designed to make investing in solar power easier and more affordable for participating residents and businesses. Historically, a solarize campaign lowers the cost of going solar by 10 to 20 percent. Solarize Brooklyn CB6 is available for both residents and businesses in the neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Street District, Gowanus, Park Slope and Red Hook. By increasing New Yorkers' access to solar power through lower prices and a simplified process, Solarize Brooklyn CB6 is contributing to the mayor's goals and specific targets for a sustainable, resilient, and equitable city laid out in the OneNYC plan. The comprehensive plan for a sustainable and resilient city aims to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, over 2005 levels. We'll be taking a closer look at this green campaign later this week, so watch this space.

It was a massive job. Seven years ago, the board at Ryerson Towers, a 326-unit Mitchell-Lama co-op in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, set out on a $3.5 million project to replace the windows and the boiler, do façade work, resurface balconies, and redo the roof. The job of coordinating the various contractors and overseeing the work fell to the property manager, Dahlia Lyons-Harrison, of New Bedford Management. Looking back, she remembers it as a largely successful — but stressful — assignment.

Today, as Ryerson Towers embarks on an even bigger job — a job that will take two years and $7.3 million.

According to real estate investment trust (REIT) AvalonBay Communities, the housing boom isn't in Manhattan, reports BloombergBusiness. The place to watch is southeast Brooklyn. In Sheepshead Bay, for example, the second-biggest publicly traded U.S. apartment landlord is reportedly "planning 200 luxury rentals in the tallest tower the community has seen in decades." So much for all those luxury condo towers in Manhattan, particularly Billionaires' Row. "There's a lot of opportunity for developers to serve New Yorkers who are not billion-dollar bankers," David Maundrell, president of Brooklyn brokerage, is quoted as saying. Maundrell adds: "To be able to build a luxury tower near the Atlantic Ocean in New York City is an extremely unique opportunity. It's probably the wave of something bigger." Maundrell, who takes a shot at hipsters from Williamsburg, nevertheless says the objective here is not to serve a market that is priced out of Manhattan. The idea, rather, is to "fill a void for luxury housing in an area that doesn't get much of it, and cater to people who work locally in Brooklyn or commute by car to Long Island or Staten Island." At least someone is thinking about those poor mega-rich who have nowhere outrageously expensive to live in the outer boroughs.

Living in New York means getting used to seeing places come and go. Sometimes when a place goes, however, you wonder what took so long. The Pavilion Theater in Park Slope was never a great place. It wasn't horrible, either. In fact, for all its faults and imperfections, it was a godsend to those who lived within walking distance or a stop or two on the F train. The sulky teenage staff and cramped seats were a small price to pay for convenience. The Pavilion is hardly a landmark, but it sits in a historic district, so that it has lasted this long — as the neighborhood's demographic changed and prices skyrocketed — is kind of remarkable. That it's lasted this long even after a bedbug scare and increasing complaints about questionable customer service is, in every sense of the word, incredible. But you see where we're going with this, don't you? DNAinfo reports that "developer Hidrock Realty will renovate the inside of the landmarked Pavilion to create 24 condos inside, as well as a retail space and 16-car parking garage." And a "'high-quality' theater will replace the historic cinema." 

Photo by Kate Leonova for Property Shark 

Sometimes living in a small building can be both blessing and curse. It certainly seems to be the case for a group of shareholders in a six-unit brownstone co-op in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The blessing is that they have a rear garden and in that rear garden is a weeping cherry tree. And most of the shareholders absolutely love the tree. Most of them. The shareholders who live in the garden apartment? Not so much. The tree's large roots make the backyard uneven, you see, and that makes for wibbly wobbly chairs and tables. "They recently told the board that they plan to shave a 12-foot-long root to level the area and then cover the ground in flagstone," a concerned shareholder tells Ronda Kaysen in this week's "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times. "An arborist told them that doing this could kill the tree. Removing the dead tree would cost around $8,000," the shareholder adds.

Back in the day, people who couldn't afford to live in pricey Manhattan would take the next best thing. The goal was a nice apartment in a nice neighborhood in one of the outer boroughs with a commute that wasn't too tedious. The payoff was that rents were significantly cheaper in the outer boroughs — even in Brooklyn. But times have changed, and as Brickunderground astutely notes, the price difference between Brooklyn and Manhattan is shrinking. First quarter 2015 sales reports generated by real estate firms like Douglas Elliman confirm that "Brooklyn has set a new record for median sales price, coming in at $610,894 — that's a 17.5 percent increase over the same time last year." It's not news for people who have been priced out of Brooklyn. Brooklynites have been scrambling out of their home borough in search of better prices for a few years now. Some of those folks have ended up in Queens. The good news is that, according to Douglas Eliman's report, the median sales price there is still nearly $200,000 less than it is in Brooklyn. The sobering news is that it's increased by 20.7 percent compared to last year. So it looks like for co-op and condo buyers the time to consider Queens is now, and don't forget that all eyes are also now on The Bronx

Photo credit: Postdlf for English language Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

If you're looking to buy a condo in Dumbo, then boy have we got some good news for you. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has given architecture firm ODA's design for 10 Jay Street a thumbs up. DNAinfo reports that by the end of this month, the last commercial tenant left in the building will bid the space farewell so the space can be converted to condos. The commission was reportedly won over by the design "because it honors the building's history as a sugar refinery" by using "oddly shaped glass pieces in the façade to represent the crystal-like shine of sugar" as well as brick and steel, which echoes the building's manufacturing past. How sweet it is! Crews begin demolition and renovation in May and the condos should be ready by middle of next year, so start saving those pennies.

Before a young Al Capone packed his bags and headed to the Windy City to make a name for himself in Chicago's organized crime circuit, he cut his teeth in Brooklyn, where he was born and bred. Capone and his family lived at 21 Garfield Place. He would go across the street to the poolroom at 20 Garfield Place, where his dad taught him how to play. That building still stands today, but not for long. DNAinfo reports that "plans are underway to build a four-story, eight-unit apartment building with a penthouse on Garfield Place between Fourth and Fifth avenues." Yep, we're losing another colorful piece of New York history, even if it’s a little notorious, because the buildings at 20 Garfield Place as well as 18 Garfield Place are going to be demolished to make way for the condo project. DNAinfo references an urban legend that claims Capone hid "riches inside the walls of one of his homes on the block." Nothing's ever come of it, but on the off chance no one has checked the poolroom, well, the demolition crew may have a shot at finding a nice surprise! Who doesn't love a bit of treasure?

Photo by Nicholas Strini for Property Shark.

Considering the hefty price tags on some of the ultra-luxury units in super posh condos being constructed all over the city, you kind of expect a lot of bang for your buck — if you're one of the lucky buyers, of course. And developers are looking to deliver just that. Take one of the apartments planned for 53W53, an ultra-luxury residential tower being built next to the Museum of Modern Art. Well, take all of the apartments in that building. Each apartment's layout needs to accommodate the unusual architectural elements of the asymmetrical, 1,050-foot tower designed by Jean Nouvel, reports The New York Times, which will "taper as it rises like a shard of glass." So how do you figure out how the pieces of this very expensive puzzle will ultimately fit together? In the case of 53W53, you build a full-scale mock-up of a $10 million apartment in an industrial section of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and start working out all the kinks. The Times explains that the prototype functions as a lab of sorts, so developers can troubleshoot "most of the challenges posed by the building’s unusual design." How cool is that? 

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