New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community



A condo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has instituted a policy that requires buyers to pay $1,500 capital contribution charge. According to one of the condo's unit owners, "the bylaws do not give the board authority to require a capital contribution in this situation. In my view, it is essentially a flip tax." What if future boards decide to increase the fee? Is there a way to nip this in the bud? The unit owner reaches out to Ronda Kaysen in the latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times for some advice. Kaysen explains that the bylaws must give the board explicit permission to collect a capital contribution such as this $1,500 charge. If not, "then the board has certainly overstepped its boundaries" and essentially amended its bylaws — which it can only do if two-thirds of the unit owners vote in favor. Good news for the concerned unit-owner, right? Wrong. Kaysen adds that "the board could probably enforce the rule without a vote." And what if a buyer doesn't want to pay? Well, then, the board can block the sale. What are the odds you'll go to court over 1,500 bucks?

Co-op and condo boards can be very strict about their pet policies and have been known to come down hard on residents who harbor animals against the rules. But there's a difference between a pet dog and a service dog, as we've covered in the past. It looks like neither Trump Village IV — a 1,144-unit Coney Island co-op — nor board president Igor Oberman got the memo, however, and it could end up being quite costly. reports that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charging the co-op and Oberman "with violating the rights of Eugene Ovsishcher, a combat veteran with a psychiatric disability, and his wife, Galina" for denying the disabled veteran's request in August 2011 "to keep an emotional support dog." According to HUD, reports, in February 2012, Ovsishcher provided the board, along with his request, "a copy of the dog’s picture, license and a letter from [his] doctor explain[ing] the medical need for the dog." Trump Village not only said no dice, but also threatened to terminate the couple's lease if they didn't make Mickey the Shi Tzu scram. And they made good on that threat, starting eviction proceedings a month later. It was the court's turn to say no dice, however — turns out when you want to evict someone, you should maybe not keep collecting rent from them. And that's when the couple went to HUD. If only Oberman and the board had read our story. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn't generally apply to cooperative apartment corporations and condominium associations, state and federal fair-housing laws do.

The Salvation Army thrift shop at 176 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg was demolished last year. Talk about location, location, location. Williamsburg is pretty hot stuff and getting hotter by the second. So it doesn't come as a huge shock that the Sally has scrapped plans to build "a two-story, 10,000-square-foot building" (which were three years in the making), and opted instead to sell the prime piece of property, according to the New York Observer’s Commercial Observer. Major Charles S. Foster, the command property secretary major for the Salvation Army, confirmed to the Commercial Observer that "the site is being marketed by Steve Bodden and Jack Lerner of Sanchez Bodden Lerner." As far as buyer and price go, mum's the word. speculates that given the busy corner location, rentals would make sense, "but the market has been turning to condos lately so who knows." Looks like potential condo buyers have something to keep their eye on in the next few years.

In 2012, Concord Village — a seven-building, 1,025-unit cooperative in downtown Brooklyn — was approved for a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for up to $600,000 toward energy fixes if the building decreased energy use by 15 percent in a year. All it had to do was produce an energy audit, identify upgrades, and then complete the upgrades in a year.

The co-op identified $2.5 million in upgrades, but it quickly became clear that some of the plans were too ambitious to finish in time. Plans to retrofit the ventilation system, for instance, were scrapped when the board realized the vents were different sizes in each unit and in different places, making changes difficult to complete quickly.

As with many post-war properties, Concord Village, a seven-building, 1,025-unit cooperative in downtown Brooklyn, heat wasn't distributed evenly, forcing shareholders to cope by opening windows in the middle of winter to cool down their overheated units.

There were other ways the co-op was wasting energy, too. Take the stairwells: "On a windy day, you could hear the howling wind going through the staircase, and that was taking the hot air as well," says Catherine Woolston, a board member who pushed for change in the co-op.

Even though leaks can be pervasive and costly, savvy condo and co-op boards can get something for nothing. "It's a no-brainer," says Steve Greenbaum, director of property management for Mark Greenberg Real Estate. When MGRE managed Clinton Hill, a 1,200-unit, 12-building complex in Brooklyn, the co-op conducted a water survey. (Clinton Hill is currently managed by AKAM Associates.)

Greenbaum is talking about a long-running but not heavily promoted program simply called the Residential Water Survey. Sponsored by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), it began in 1991 when the state was looking for ways to conserve water and now exists as one of the best (if not the best) un-promoted programs that can save your property money.

A precedent-setting decision by New York State's highest court eases privatization of Mitchell-Lama co-ops and similar affordable housing by affirming there is no sales tax on the process. 

The Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Wednesday that Trump Village Section 3 — which left the Mitchell-Lama program of limited-equity co-ops to become a private corporation in 2007 — is not subject to New York City's Real Property Transfer Tax, normally levied on the sale or other transfer of property.

You're a tenant in a rent-stabilized building. You love your apartment. But the building's owner is making noise about wanting to sell. Your first instinct may be to rally all the tenants to see if they are willing and able to join forces, buy the building, and convert it to a co-op or condo. That's what one tenant in a rent-stabilized building in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, would like to do. And the latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times explains that although, in theory, it's a possibility, in practice, such plans ever really come to fruition. Still, it's not a pipe dream, says the Times column, offering nuggets of advice that includes forming a tenants' association and hiring a lawyer to guide them through the conversion process if the landlord takes a shining to the idea. And if there are enough tenants willing to put their money where there mouth is, who knows? We might see the birth of a co-op or condo.

In July 2013, a full nine months after superstorm Sandy devastated Brooklyn's Shore Gardens co-op, management still had not repaired and remediated enough to allow all lower-floor residents to return. And now, more than two years after the flooding that drove many shareholders out of their homes, Shore Gardens Realty has made few or no renovations to the common areas and some apartments, as shareholder Natasha Brown tells NY1 News in disgusting detail. (See the video, if you're a Time-Warner subscriber.) Along with mold and off-limits laundry rooms, there's parking-lot damage that allows flooding from a nearby creek. But as Natalie Cole, another shareholder, says, "Calls to the management company go unanswered" — a fact reporter Susan Jhun found out for herself. There's really no excuse for that, let alone for letting repairs linger this long.

You can't fight City Hall, but you can laugh at its jokes. "We're telling landlords who are playing games, 'Hey the heat is on,'" says Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, referring to Heat Seek NYC — a pilot program that installs a digital thermometer in apartments and sends temperature readings to a central computer. Tenants and public advocates then can access that data to see if landlords aren't providing the legally required minimum of heat. The data can also let landlords knows if they're overheating apartments, wasting money and energy. Right now the program is confined to Brooklyn, with participants including the Carroll Gardens Association and Bedford-Stuyvesant's Bridge Street Development, reports Crain's New York Business.

Cooperatives fall under rental regulations regarding heat, so the device would be of benefit both in terms of shareholder comfort and board energy-management. It similarly would be of benefit to condominiums — although in one of those quirks of law, condo boards actually are not required to provide adequate heat. (See the second item here.)

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