New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

MANHATTAN

Calling AT&T: Why have we been paying your electric bill for 18 years?

That's the question the condo board of The Leonori condominium — where residents include the actor Samuel L. Jackson and former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack — has put to the telecommunications giant after discovering the building has been paying to power the cell-phone towers on its roof all this time. Even more to the point, that's the question asked in the lawsuit that the condominium filed on July 18. The case is instructive for any condo or co-op board as a reminder to really look at your monthly bills.

One of the most important things co-op boards and condominium associations want from their property managers is new initiatives — ideas to help improve and upgrade your buildings, or to proactively solve problems. Fortunately, managers say that offering new ideas is a no-brainer — and a necessity if they want to be competitive with their colleagues.

Larry Weinstein has worked in a variety of fields, including electrical engineering, architecture and lighting design. A resident of the 422-unit Silver Towers cond-op in Kew Gardens, Queens, Weinstein was elected president of the board last summer. Even before that, he put his professional expertise to work, supervising a retrofit of some 500 common-area lighting fixtures. By reducing their wattage from 36 to 6, the building got a $25,000 rebate from Con Ed on top of $35,000 annual savings on electricity bills.

An exclusive Habitat co-op/condo board survey shows that co-op and condo boards seem to stick with their property-management firms. Slightly over 60 percent have been with their current firm six years or more; some 16.5 percent have been with the same firm for 11 to 15 years; and some 12.6 percent have had a more-than-21-year relationship.

But despite this longevity, 40.6 percent say the performance of their current managing agent is "subpar" or "needs improving." It's easy to see there's a difference between what boards accept and what boards expect.

In Bregman v. 111 Tenants Corp., Cornelia Sharpe Bregman alleged that in 1972 she was renting apartment 6C at 111 East 75th Street in Manhattan, which was converting the building to cooperative ownership. Because of an insufficient number of subscriptions to qualify for conversion, the sponsor asked her to purchase her apartment as well as penthouse Apartment 10A. Bregman says she entered into an agreement that gave her "full, unconditional, and perpetual sublet rights" to both apartments, because the sponsor recognized that she would have to sublet one or both.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents.

This week, a high-end co-op has a low-rent board, according to a lawsuit claiming it's avoiding responsibility for fecal-contaminated water coming from the tap. Yuck. Plus, a pit bull featured on Animal Planet bites a condo neighbor, and elsewhere a pit-bull owner defies a condominium's no-dogs rule without even bothering to make up a "therapy animal" claim. Queens, the home of last year's tax-protest movement, examines the just-renewed tax abatement, and what happens when your storage locker gets broken into? Plus: An infestation of artists, all over Co-op Village!

Denis Leary was with me when we had an authentic New York moment across from the Hayden Planetarium. I was doing a short segment with him that was part of an online campaign we did. We had a permit.

So I have this camera guy and Denis is dressed as [his movie character] Police Captain George Stacy. And I'm asking him questions and he's talking about how he needs help, how the public has to help him to find Spider-Man.

A guy comes out of the building: sneakers, shorts, all sweaty, athletically obnoxious Wall Street type. Very New York. He's saying to me, "Why are you filming in front of my building? I'm the chairman of the board of this building!" It was a co-op on the Upper West Side.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week,it's a nail-biter as New York City and New York State play chicken over the technically expired property-tax abatement for co-ops and condos. Plus, private playgrounds are the hot new kid-friendly amenity and Alec Baldwin's new wife buys a condo ... right next to her husband's. Is that like his-and-her towels? For condo and co-op boards, we've no less than The New York Times says sic 'em when it comes to condo arrears. And here's how you break up with the nice, friendly volunteer who's not so great at the job.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, Mayor Bloomberg proposes a residential smoking ban. Or does he? Plus, a tree may grow in Brooklyn but a co-op's just sprouted in the ever-burgeoning Bronx; the highest-priced New York City co-op ever gets sold; and what could be the second-priciest condo gets put on the market. Good thing Co-op City is staying affordable. And we wonder what Jennifer Aniston's combined co-op apartments will sell for now that she's moving (or moving in) elsewhere.

A monthly column by HABITAT's editorial director.

Let's call the super Pete, and the only other thing I'll tell you about him is that he's honest, hardworking, and knowledgeable. Oh, yes, and I've known him for 25 years. When he complains about something, it isn't idle talk.

At this moment, he was pretty incensed: "This guy," he said, referring to another super he knew, "shouldn't have gotten that job."

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