New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021



The management of the venerable Chelsea co-op commonly known as Penn South is disputing claims by a website that hoarders at the 10-building complex are the principal reason for a multimillion-dollar increase in the cost of a major infrastructure upgrade.

"At no time did we indicate that hoarders were the primary cause or even a significant cause for the $40 million increase in costs," Brendan Keany, general manager of the complex formally known as Mutual Development Houses, told shareholders yesterday in a memo his office provided to Habitat. The complex has been undergoing a massive HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) project, initially budgeted at roughly $100 million, that involves plumbing, asbestos removal and other infrastructure issues affecting all 2,820 apartments.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a luxury building is actually chintzy, its non-union doormen argue. And a Staten Island board seems rather cheesy, if the parking-space perks its members gave themselves is any indication. A court puts the brakes on a co-op's attempt to be rid of a Citi Bike rack. And a condo-owner in Chelsea gets concrete results — from a construction site dripping it onto his patio. Plus, for condo and co-op boards, an attorney finds yet another novel way of dealing with unit-owner deadbeats.

When a first-floor shareholder's floor collapsed into the basement, the board at Chelsea Gardens, a six-story, block-long, 170-unit co-op at 255 West 23rd Street, decided to excavate the filled-in space to raise some much-needed funds. With all of the dirt removed, the basement walls measured 13 feet high — tall enough to meet the legal requirements for occupation — and the co-op would have an additional 5,000 square feet it could either sell to shareholders on the first floor to create duplexes or offer to buyers as new units.

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.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, for some reason, we're big on board-specific news: boards suing developers and residents, a board president squeezing "donations" from building vendors for a political bid and a board turning amateur cop and firing employees it suspects of thievery — hindering the investigation by actual cops. A George ZImmerman board, as it were. Plus, exclusive co-ops learn to compete for buyers and an alleged illegal hotelier has people arrested who complain! Man, late August is crazy!

Board Service: Jo Anna Isaak and Dan O'Connell on a Co-op's Tree Removal

Written by Jo Anna Isaak and Dan O'Connell, President and Shareholder, 329 W. 21st Street, Manhattan. One in an occasional series of real-life stories by board members about serving on co-op and condo boards. on August 18, 2011

329 W. 21st Street, Chelsea, Manhattan

When we purchased our small co-op apartment in Chelsea more than 20 years ago, the biggest appeal to us was the deck and garden area that came with it. Hidden behind the main 10-unit building, the dominant feature of the small courtyard was a large, old ailanthus tree. It attracted rare and unusual birds, resting on their migratory paths. It gave us shade in the summer and leaves to sweep in the fall. Its only downside, we thought, was that we had to scoot around its massive, elephantine trunk when bringing food from the building to our outside dining table.

For 20 years, we enjoyed our tree. Then, one day last winter, we noticed something peculiar: The tree's roots were breaking through the ground, coming up and pulling our wooden deck up with them.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, if you look into the windows of people's homes, you're a peeping Tom ... unless you take photographs and put them up for sale. Then it's legal to spy on people because, hey, it's art! So ruled Judge Eileen Rakower after Tribeca  parents sued a voyeuristic creep — the New York Post's word — who shot pictures of their kids and sold them for up to $10,000 each (without paying or even getting a release form from the unwary models.) Homeowners beware.

We've also a lawsuit between condo-owners over what they say is their building's overpriced gym, a reminder that clothes make the doorman, and did you know that New York City apartments aren't considered "luxury" until they cost $3 million? Plus, for condo and co-ops boards, tips on noisy neighbors and meeting minutes.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, there's no bigger news for boards than of the legislative mess in Albany that will send co-op and condo property taxes sky-high unless Gov. Cuomo and company take action. On the Upper East Side, a co-op board sues a sponsor that won't let go even after 24 years, a doorman charges a management company with allowing racist rants, there's power from the sun in Sunset Park and much 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?

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, police name an accomplice in the Penn South co-op embezzlement, and one Financial District condo board gets sued over cell-phone antennas while another hopes Denny's won't grand-slam into their luxury building. In other lawsuit news, a Murray Hill co-op board misses a deadline in a discrimination lawsuit. Note to self: Don't hire that lawyer. Plus, see how all the changes in the co-op / condo tax abatement play out with LLCs and trusts — trust us, you want to know. And Bruce Willis buys hard on the Upper West Side.

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