New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

MANHATTAN

When a co-op board sells a unit that it's acquired by a rental apartment's vacancy, you must wear two hats: one as the seller and the other as the discerning board carefully reviewing a potential shareholder's financial dossier. Just because a board enters into a contract with a buyer doesn't mean the board has relinquished its right to reject the shareholder.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, from the forecourt to foreclosure, former NBA star Stephon Marbury may be in danger of losing his Manhattan apartment. Well, the one-time New York Knick plays in China now, so maybe he's being called for traveling. Plus, a lawsuit tries to stop a Sutton Place roof garden, a board oversteps by demanding "visitor approval," and hi-yo, Brooklyn! Williamsburg condo owners remember their "Wild West" days — of two years ago. For condo and co-op boards, we've tips on piercing the anonymity of LLCs, on contractors insurance and much more.

Digital Accounting Tools for Boards and Managers: Dropbox

Written by Sheryl Nance-Nash on September 19, 2013

Hamilton Heights, Manhattan

Deirdre McIntosh-Brown, board president of a 133-unit Hamilton Heights co-op, was fed up. Every month, her management firm, HSC, sent her a dozen or more e-mails that she felt were unnecessary. The property manager would try to send the monthly 300-page management report and invariably — because the file was too big — he would break it up into 12 or more segments. "Some might end up in spam, or you couldn't see the documents clearly," she says.

 

Aug. 29, 2013 — Monkey bars are an endangered species. So are seesaws, metal slides that turn into frying pans under the hot sun and hard asphalt that helped invent the phrase "skinned knees." In fact, old-fashioned playgrounds with all those things are passé. So what does a co-op or condo board do when it wants to create an outdoor play area for children or upgrade the one you've had since the '60s? It's not as simple as buying a swing set at Home Depot.

Or as cheap, since it's an investment in increasing your property's market value. And what with many new developments having them for just that reason, your co-op or condo might need to keep up.

For a recent hallway renovation at an Upper East Side co-op, the plan was to remove old wallpaper and replace worn carpeting. But in the process, remembers Marion Preston, former board treasurer of the 111-unit co-op, the previous board had ordered a huge supply of excess wallpaper and carpet. "They had extra of everything just in case, but no one ever used it or needed it," Preston says. "For our job, we had all-new material, so we obviously didn't need this anymore. I couldn't bear to just toss it out. It was still in its original packaging." So what to do?

Today Habitat introduces "Teachable Moments," an occasional feature in which leading management professionals offer quick takes on various topics of interest to co-op and condo board members. In the first of this series, four industry veterans give mini-lessons on how to find creative solutions to problems that resist the usual approaches.

The Clinton West condominium at 516 W. 47th Street, in the neighborhood you call either Clinton or Hell's Kitchen depending on how New York you are, seems a nice place to live. Built in 2003, the seven-story, two-building complex of about 80 apartments boasts granite kitchen counters, heated bathroom floors, an atrium lounge with WiFi, a fitness room and even a putting green. Behind this genteel façade, however, a battle brewed.

Edward Desmond of apartment S3G is a union electrician who since 2010 has been unemployed. That year, he fell behind on his common charges and notified the property manager — first Steven Katz of Rudd Realty, later his successor, Ellen Marrone of Midboro Management. As Desmond testified in court, Marrone reasonably and appropriately told him that if Desmond were to begin making his current payments, "it would be a show of good faith."

It was one of the last reasonable things anybody did.

It's hard enough for condominium associations to go after unit-owners in arrears for their common charges. It's even harder when the unit-owner "gives away" the apartment to somebody outside the country who moves around and doesn't give a forwarding address. And since courts don't recognize it when you serve court papers to the "former" unit-owner — who still lives there — what can a condo board do? Are you out of luck? Is this the magic-trick loophole, the get-out-of-jail-free card, that prevents a board from taking someone in arrears to court?

Maybe so, at least judging from a case still in its early stages involving The Spencer condominium in the Lenox Hill neighborhood of the Upper East Side.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, the Attorney General brings down the hammer on a real estate attorney we hope wasn't yours, Hell's Kitchen residents want a homeless woman to get the hell away, a family feuds over a Park Avenue co-op, and we've an update on that Florida condo where faith-based discrimination against unmarried straight and gay couples made national headlines. Plus, for condo and co-op boards, we've the latest on the City Council bill for regulating co-op admissions.

 
 
Aug. 22, 2013 — The co-op board president and two building managers of the monumental 360 E. 72nd Street, between First and Second Avenues, tell how they swung a refinancing that paid for an $8.5 million refacing from white-brick to red-brick, plus  $3 million dollars in additional upgrades -- not only without raising shareholders' monthly maintenance, but putting $12 million into the co-op's reserve fund.

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