New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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EAST HARLEM

A pit bull causes beastly problems in an East Harlem co-op.

City wants to tighten rules on affordable co-ops, but many shareholders are resisting.

Only You Can Prevent Board Burnout

Written by Lisa Prevost on June 03, 2016

East Harlem

Strategies to lighten the load for overworked boards.

It was a scene from our very nightmares: on March 12, 2014, an explosion and ensuing fire in East Harlem toppled two five-story buildings, killing eight people, and displacing more than 100 families and several small businesses. The blast was so powerful, it hurled pieces of building onto the elevated Metro North tracks. More than a year later, regulators at the National Transportation Safety Board have determined that the explosion "would not have happened if two of Consolidated Edison's gas pipes had been welded together properly," reports The New York Times. The safety board added that "the faulty connection between those pipes might not have ended so disastrously had New York City repaired a gaping hole in a nearby sewer main that it had known about for at least eight years." Other factors that contributed to the accident, according to the article, "were the failure of neighborhood residents to report the gas odor they noticed and the failure of Con Edison to notify the [New York City] Fire Department as soon as somebody alerted the company." Granted, nobody called Con Edison until after 9 a.m. on the day of the explosion to report a possible gas leak, and when they did, the person's tone was reportedly very uncertain. But even after starting to alert the fire department, per protocol, a Con Edison representative got "distracted," reportedly saying, "Hold up. No, sorry. Hold on. Hold on. I'll call you right back." And then never did. The explosion occurred 11 minutes after that call. According to the article, the safety board concluded that "the task of the emergency medical workers was complicated further by Con Edison's failure to install valves that would have made it easier to shut off the gas that fed the fire." What does Con Ed say? That it's suing the city, for starters, and that it disagrees that it is to blame: "Con Edison disputed the investigators' finding that the primary source of the natural gas that fueled the explosion was the ruptured connection between its main pipe and a smaller one that branched off to an apartment building. Company officials acknowledged that the weld was flawed but insisted that the gas had seeped through a different crack that the investigators found." Surprise, surprise. 

It takes a significant amount of financial mismanagement to land a co-op in foreclosure. Although it's a rare, and very sad, occurrence, it looks like 200 of the 329 co-ops in Community Boards 9, 10, and 11 will need to turn things around to avoid heading toward the dreaded F word. DNAinfo reports that those co-ops owe the city more than $21.2 million in unpaid taxes and water and sewage bills, citing records from the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and of the 200, 49 of them owe more than $100,000. Most of the mismanaged co-ops in Hamilton Heights, Harlem, and East Harlem started out as "foreclosed properties owned by absentee landlords that the city sold to tenants to give low-income New Yorkers homeownership," according to DNAinfo. One co-op, located at 501 West 143rd Street, has a $3 million debt and at risk of being foreclosed, according to HPD. An HPD spokesperson said in statement that the co-op has been identified both by it and the Department of Finance as a candidate for the Third Party Transfer program. "If placed on the program," writes DNAinfo, "every member of the co-op would lose ownership of their apartment and be forced to become renters. For Ronaldo Kiel, who has spent more than $200,000 to buy and renovate his apartment, [it] would mean a complete loss on his investment."

 

Photo by Nicholas Strini for Property Shark

The smell of oven gas. Every apartment-dweller dreads it. Even the faintest odor can trigger panic among residents who fear a leak will lead to sickness, costly repairs, weeks without heat and hot water or, worse, an explosion like the fatal one in East Harlem earlier this year.

As the city changes the way it copes with gas leaks — in June, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Fire Department will respond to all gas leaks first instead of the utility company — property managers say it's more important than ever to understand what happens when there's a report of a gas leak.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This might be a first: A rich developer is suing shareholders at the City-subsidized, middle-income co-op Madison Park Apartments just for complaining about what they called shoddy construction and repairs, including leaks dating to 2002. Since one of the defendants is a 68-year-old retiree on Social Security, we're guessing developer Donald Capoccia of BFC partners isn't figuring on them mounting an expensive defense. Gag me with a lawsuit.

Plus, a Central Park West condominium extends balloting time for an anti-smoking vote. Should it have? City Council members rail at the Fed for delayed Sandy relief funds. And we've reverse-mortgage realities, Airbnb telling people not to hotel illegally, and how to compile a great co-op board package.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, we already knew that Class 2 properties — co-ops, most condos and rental buildings — carry an unfairly higher tax burden than Class 1 properties such as single-family homes. But a recent Furman Center panel of academics and other experts — including a former Dept. of Finance commissioner and the deputy director of the New York City Independent Budget Office — quantified just how much: Class 2 is taxed at a rate almost five times higher than Class 1. Check out the first article below for details.

Among the other news this week: a co-op's attempt to evict a 78-year-old over minor hoteling and a condo board's ongoing suit against a bad-neighbor gym.

This week, the co-op board of the publicly subsidized Lindsay Park Houses in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, used taxpayer money to send letters endorsing disgraced former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who — despite sexual-harassment charges by eight women and having to resign following a state Ethics Commission investigation — is running for City Council. But it seems that's legal — as is, apparently, a Florida condominium board's refusal to sell to unmarried straight or gay couples "living in sin"… and since gays can't marry in Florida, that point's especially problematic. We don't usually note news outside the metro area, but real-estate discrimination against those who don't share your religious beliefs seems more than parochially important. And in other news: Parents like playrooms as an amenity!

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, what can co-op and condo boards do about the illegal hotel one of the residents is running? Plus, we show you the the coolest construction netting in the world, and a resource for your own urban canvas when a netting need arises. And mother of mercy, is this the start of RICO? For co-op / condo buyers / sellers, a lawyer says what your lawyer should do for you when you buy or sell. And John Legend is selling his Bowery condo in order to buy on Broome.

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