New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Discovering that your co-op or condo has a ground lease — a real-estate instrument in which your cooperative or condominium corporation owns the building but only leases the land, usually for periods of up to 99 years — can be unnerving. Why? Because you have to pay a monthly ground-rental fee atop your maintenance or common charges and because ground leases can be detrimental to sales: Lenders don't like to offer loans when the building has, say, less than 30 years left on a lease.


What do you do when your building doesn't own the land on which it sits? 

Yes, that's a thing — it's called a "ground lease," a real estate instrument in which a cooperative or a condominium corporation owns the building but only leases the land. Usually it's for long periods of up to 99 years, after which, theoretically, the landowner can tell the board to move the building elsewhere. And in the meantime, your monthly payments include ground rent.

New York's infamous 1950s white-brick buildings have long been considered white elephants — and at the storied Greenwich Village co-op 2 Fifth Avenuea $30.7 million assessment to replace such aged and dangerous bricks came out to an elephantine six-figure payment per shareholder. In a four-year odyssey chronicled by The New York Times, old board-members got booted out, new ones came in, building management got replaced and a three-tier assessment plan was created to ensure that all owners could pay and not default. And despite recriminations early on, the building's community wound up bonding strongly. Find out how the residents and board members pulled it off — and what gold cuff links shaped like hardhats have to do with it. 

Ask the Experts

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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