New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

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MANHATTAN

In 2011, the Upper East Side co-op Tower East took a major step toward improving its energy efficiency. It had always used a master-meter to track electricity usage, dividing the electric charges among residents based on their shares. The problem with relying only on a master-meter is that, because they never see an electric bill, residents tend to waste electricity. By installing a meter in each unit, residents know what they use and, consequently, have to pay more if they forget to turn their lights off. So how do co-op and condo boards convince them to switch from master meter to submeters?

Having Trouble Passing a Referendum? Simplify, Simplify.

Written by Gilbert Kunken, President, 66 W. 94th Street and 689 Columbus Avenue on May 09, 2013

66 W. 94th Street, 689 Columbus Avenue, Upper West Side

The board of our 233-unit Manhattan co-op wanted to revise the bylaws in our proprietary lease. They had remained unchanged from the very beginning of our cooperative, 45 years ago. We also wanted to change the size of the co-op board, which was set at 13 members. That size can make it hard to operate; when you foster an environment that gives everybody the opportunity to speak, the more people you have at the table, the longer everything takes.

As well, we had trouble just getting enough candidates to fill the board, and felt its size was out of proportion to a building our size. We also wanted to put in board eligibility requirements; for instance, there were no requirements whatsoever about whether or not board members had to be in good financial standing. We felt very strongly that board members should not owe any money.

We took those ideas and many other changes before the shareholders for two years in a row, and we were coming up 15 or 20 votes short each year. Why?

An alleged break-in three years ago still lingers in the memories of the board members of the Coliseum Park Apartments, a cooperative just west of the Time Warner Center. Why only alleged? Because the shareholder had no evidence anyone had illegally entered. No security camera footage. No damaged furniture. Just a valuable stamp collection gone missing. That's one reason the co-op board ultimately chose to install a rigorous new key fob access system that would not only make the building more secure but also give doormen far-reaching oversight of who entered and exited.

Bob Bischoff wasn’t surprised when he heard the news: a significant portion of his building needed to be “skinned.”

If that sounds major, that’s because it is. Skinning is a labor-intensive, time-consuming procedure. The first layer brick is removed, and a layer of mortar is added, which creates a smooth surface. Then waterproofing is applied, and a new brick is installed. You don’t want to “re-skin” a building unless you absolutely have to.

A major challenge when submetering a building is that workers must get access to each apartment. If crews have trouble doing that, it can delay the entire process, adding to the final cost. Installing submeters in 132 units, as was done at the Upper East Side co-op Tower East, can take two months, as resident schedules need to be accommodated and damage to paneling and walls might need to be repaired.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, sponsor abuses stir up the latest call for a co-op ombudsman in the Attorney General's office, a Queens condo board changes apartments' locks to keep owners out during Sandy repair — commandeering one home for a construction office — and West Village co-opers sue to keep away bicycle clutter. For condo and co-op boards, we've the latest hoteling lawsuit. Plus: Condopedia! Which we're sure is as accurate as regular Wikipedia.

How would you like to make sales dry up in your building? Or guarantee you'll lose every challenge to your authority as a board? What if you couldn't charge assessments, collect flip taxes or go after people who were in arrears? Nutty, right? Well, not so nutty if you're one of those condo or co-op boards that don't keep minutes.

Every night, Zoltan Papp would watch the sun go down from his office at a 100-unit Greenwich Village cooperative and the floodlights in the backyard flicker on. They would stay on all night, casting chiaroscuro shadows in the empty outdoor space until a timer switched them off at dawn the next morning.

Needless to say, the co-op board found monthly electricity bill an eyesore. With lights on around the clock in the lobby, corridors, elevators and staircases of 51 Fifth Avenue — familiar as the exterior location for Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt's home on Mad About You — it was obvious to the building superintendent no one had ever seriously looked at what the building could do to eliminate the unnecessary electricity costs.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a Brighton Beach condominium goes from lawsuits to protests over a public toilet its residents say is in the wrong place — blocking their ocean views. Plus, the noisy saga of 199 Bowery continues; a condo buyer who pulled out of a deal not only lost the deposit but owes $577,000 in legal fees; and looking to buy? Dont' overlook The Bronx! Plus, for condo and co-op boards, we've a Sandy-related lawsuit, a lawyer's thoughts on absentee ownership and more.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. Quite the tabloid week this week, as police tell more about the Penn South embezzlement, as international money-laundering sends a Chelsea condominium apartment into auction, and as a suspect is arrested in a Co-op City killing. Plus, a bathroom may block views, a "maintenance-free" co-op and are Manhattan apartment prices up or down?

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