New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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As Stephen Budow sees it, there are two kinds of people in this world. One believes a person's home is his or her castle, sacred and inviolable. The other believes the health, comfort, and safety of a person's neighbors are far more important than the sanctity of any castle. Budow, an attorney who has spent the past decade as president of a 65-unit Yorkville condo, used to be the former type. But that began to change about three years ago.


Don Bilodeau, board president of a 72-unit condo in Astoria, Queens, started hearing two kinds of complaints about cigarette smoke shortly after he moved into the building in 2007. The first was about people smoking in common areas, which is forbidden in the bylaws. The second was about people smoking so heavily inside their apartments that the smoke was leaking into common areas.

Steven Schneider, an owner of the back-office company Back Office Inc., a.k.a. The Back Office, cautions that not every type of building benefits from "back-office only" (BOO) services. "It's the building that is having a lot of waterproofing issues," he says by way of example. "It's the building with the boiler they've had since year one and they've been putting band-aids on it, the building with a lot of problems and a board that needs its hand held every day."

As well, Schneider says, some potentially ideal candidates for BOO won't consider ditching their managing agents because it's seen as an issue of prestige to have an agent.

It sounds like something from a horror movie: Walls seeping with horrible, foul-smelling, oozing human waste from the, um, bowels of Hell, one might say.

But that's not the most horrific part. The most horrific part is that the board of this prewar doorman co-op — where sprawling, 10-room apartments sell for up to $3.5 million — was willing to pay only $20,400 of the $23,360 bill to make good on the damage, and to go to court over a difference of less than $3,000. So ... just what was the big stink about?

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, Seward Park Co-op shareholders protest the suburbanization of the Lower East Side, a church rattles a co-op's walls, and there are, like, 10,000 LEED-certified buildings in the U.S now. Is your co-op or condo one of them? Why or why not? Please discuss. Plus, an Upper West Side arborcide, mandatory volunteerism at a self-managed co-op, and a condo owner wants to turn his place into a bed-and-breakfast. Kate Winslet, on the other hand, is looking for a more long-term rental of her Chelsea condominium.

Chelsea Mourning: A Co-op Board Member Bemoans Bad Neighbors

Written by Curtis Houlihan, Secretary, 329 West 21st Street Corp. on August 21, 2012

329 W. 21st Street, Chelsea, Manhattan

When I bought a one-bedroom co-op in Chelsea in 1994, I could feel the doors of affordability close right behind me. Just a year later, my apartment would have sold for twice as much, which would've been way out of my modest price range. Today, it's worth seven or even eight times what I paid. Like a lot of folks who rode the Chelsea real estate wave, I feel like I won the lottery.

But there's a serious downside to all this "wealth" creation, and that is when your longtime neighbor cashes out for retirement in Florida or Panama, and the new buyers — who are genuinely wealthy — begin to move in.

Our story begins at an 1120 Park Avenue penthouse, in a co-op between West 95th and 96th Streets. Craig and Deborah Cogut had bought triplex apartment 16PHB in in August 2006. Two months later they informed the managing agent, Brown Harris Stevens, that they wanted to renovate. Their architect, Darius Toraby, submitted plans that met with approval from the co-op's retained professional, Walter B. Melvin Architects, and after that from the board.

The case of the careless care dogs is moving forward — just without the board members.

In a New York Supreme Court decision filed Dec. 2 with the County Clerk, Judge Emily Jane Goodman ruled that a lawsuit by writer Liz Weston (not to be confused with the financial columnist Liz Pulliam Weston) against the tony co-op 14 Sutton Place South (above) could continue toward trial. But Goodman cut loose the seven board-members themselves, saying they were protected by the Business Judgment Rule.

So will Theo and Kodi have to keep using the service elevator? And how's Lola's injured tail doing?

It’s not the kind of information a board ever wants to receive — but it certainly doesn’t expect to receive it three years after the building was built. “After evidence of leaks, the board was compelled to hire an architect to study the conditions of the roofing and found that it was improperly installed by the developer,” says Jeff Heidings, president of Siren Management. “Typically, that’s what is first to go in new construction.”

Typical or not, the flaws made it crucial to replace everything. The previous roof had not had enough insulation, and the drains were improperly installed, causing ponding and saturation. In short, it was leaking into the top two floors.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a Greenwich Village co-op board refuses to discuss why it's evicting a financially responsible doctor's family that's owned a Fifth Avenue co-op since 1985, and residents of Harlem's Riverbend co-op are asking why the board just re-upped a management company they say has let the place fall into disrepair. Plus, a co-op / condo insurance checklist, and when a building installs a noisy playground, apartments overlooking it are out luck.

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