New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Soon after taking over as managing agent on the 42-building 420-apartment West Village Houses complex in lower Manhattan, Lawrence Properties had to cope with the devastating effects of superstorm Sandy, which knocked out power and flooded the basement and ground-floor apartments, leaving 33 families homeless. "Almost 10 percent of our apartments have been destroyed by the storm," says co-op board president Jim Bozart. "There's been extreme dislocation, lots of suffering, most of the people are not back in those units. They've been gutted."

How did the management company and the board work together in the wake of this disaster? And what can your own co-op or condo board learn from it? Bozart and Lawrence Managing Director Anton Cirulli spoke with Habitat editorial director Tom Soter about their experiences.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, are the primarily Polish residents of The South Star condominium prejudiced against the Russian lady, or do they just not like her illegal hoteling? Plus, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Hauppauge) talks HUD money for superstorm-Sandy repair grants, the CityRealty website revamps and Chelsea Clinton buys a condo, in neither Chelsea nor Clinton. And for condo and co-op boards, we've got noise-and-nuisance fights on the Lower East Side and in Tribeca.

It often feels as if whatever we're experiencing as board members can't possibly be true elsewhere — no one would believe the work, the responsibilities and the decision-making entrusted to volunteer laypersons. Yet you're not alone — others understand. Mary Fran, co-op board president of the 387-unit Park Terrace Gardens n the Inwoodsection of Manhattan, certainly does. In part two of her year-in-the-life diary, the head of this five-building complex's nine-member board details what she and her compatriots struggle with at their monthly meetings. You can probably relate.

In the final entries of co-op board president Mary Fran's 2013 meeting diary, she closes the year with the results of the Local Law 11 façade work, assessment issues and the annual elections at the 387-unit, five-building Park Terrace Gardens in the Inwoodsection of Manhattan. What she and her board went through — is that what you go through, too?

Mary Fran is a fairly typical board member, dedicated and determined, who has served three years as a member-at-large, one year as the vice president and then a year (so far) as president. Her home, Park Terrace Gardens in the Inwood section of Manhattan, is a fairly typical property of its type: a five-building, 387-unit cooperative built in 1939-40 and incorporated as a cooperative in the mid-1980s. It has a nine-member board, four supers, five porters, and a resident manager and her assistant in an onsite office.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, Penn South goes south, and $190,000 went with it. Plus, New York officials want banks to release insurance money that's due superstorm Sandy victims, a co-op has constant drunken revelers in its garden, and does monthly maintenance ever decrease?  And for condo and co-op boards, what do you do with a dog that bites? What about if the owner is a little old man?

The Apple Store, located on Broadway and 68th Street, is a glass box: beautiful, elegant, and refined – less a computer shop, more an experience. To the north of it sits the Bel Canto, a 76-unit condominium that towers over the store. Neighbors, sure, but when representatives from the two buildings began talking, they didn’t swap stories about Macs or PCs. The topic was real estate, specifically Local Law 11. The issue seemed simple: the 27-story Bel Canto needed to repair its façade, and it needed permission – a so-called “access agreement” – to work over the roof of the five-story Apple Store.

How hard is that?

Very, it turns out. “It took us three years of negotiations to come to an agreement,” recalls Andrea Bunis, the president of Andrea Bunis Management. And after three years of talk, “they only gave us about 90 days to do the work.”

It was no surprise that 200 East End Avenue was vulnerable to superstorm Sandy: The garage had been flooded once before during a Nor'easter. But no one anticipated how much devastation the storm would wreak on this 17-story tower.

In the early hours of October 29, building superintendent Scott Falk thought the co-op would weather the storm with little damage. The property sits on the edge of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive and the East River just past it, so Falk and his staff evacuated the garage and secured the sloping driveway and service entrance with sandbags. The rain wasn't as heavy as forecast and by late afternoon, the streets were relatively dry.

As he drove into the city from Long Island, Robert Mellman phoned environmental companies, hoping to get one onsite quickly to pump out the contaminated water. By the Orsid Realty property manager arrived, the building's electrician was there, working with Con Ed to cut power from the grid.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a Long Island co-op struggle to finance common-area repair, not covered by FEMA, after superstorm Sandy; a condo super in Greenpoint risks blowing the place up; and rich folk got dem pied-à-terre blues. For co-op and condo boards, we've two tales of illegal hoteling — both with hilarious, albeit nefarious, behavior by the apartment owners. Plus, the latest amenity: onsite well-being programs.

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