New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

LOWER EAST SIDE

Speaking of white-glove buildings, it looks like the "poor door" is making headlines again. According to the New York Daily News, Extell Development wants to build a 56-story luxury tower near the Manhattan Bridge, the former site of a Pathmark supermarket. Next to it would be a 13-story "poor door" building where the low-income population in the complex would live. Activists are saying hell no. The "poor door," they say, "reeks of discrimination." The Daily News reports that last Wednesday, "hundreds of Chinatown and Lower East Side residents gathered in front of the 227 Cherry St. construction site to demand that [Mayor Bill] de Blasio protect their waterfront community." They mean business, too, planning to carry on the protests on the last Wednesday of every month. They are calling on the mayor to stand by the promise he made in 2014 to end the use of the poor doors. Scheduled to be completed by 2018, the luxury tower would be located in the midst of several public housing projects — so this fight is more than just saying no to the segregation affecting the low-income population. This fight is also about a city that, according to many, doesn't seem to have its priorities in check. One activist points out that what the city needs are schools, not (more) luxury towers. And it's also about gentrification: "Luxury buildings push rents through the roof and displace low-income people; the loss of local, affordable businesses such as Pathmark also forces people out," adds another activist. For them, scrapping plans for a poor door isn't enough. They want to stop the entire development in its tracks. "We put you in office," they say to the mayor for whom affordable housing is so high on the agenda. "So we demand that you stop the Extell project!" They're mad as hell, and they're not going take it anymore.

Do you remember the Bowery? Whether you view it as a former Skid Row or a long-gone hardcore punk rock heaven, its grit defined the New York City that many of us grew up knowing and loving — a New York City that has, thankfully, been captured in Taxi Driver and the French Connection. The face of the Bowery has changed a lot — gentrification has transformed it into an unrecognizable place, a place that has no room for the likes of CBGB anymore, preferring instead trendy shops, restaurants, and a Whole Foods. Many considered the neighborhood's last holdout to be 190 Bowery, that gorgeous, graffiti-covered limestone building, a former bank — in fact, the Germania Bank building — that doubled as a piece of old New York architecture and a snapshot of the Bowery that once was. For more than 40 years, that old bank was home to photographer Jay Maisel. He paid $102,000 for the building in 1966 and resisted selling for years. Last year, however, he made a deal to sell the building to developer Aby Rosen. Citing public records filed with the city late last week, the New York Daily News reported that Maisel got $55 million for it. Rosen's plans? He's put the building back on the market, but it's a safe guess that whoever snaps it up will convert the space to condos, right after the last vestiges of a now extinct neighborhood are scrubbed away for good.

Photo by Joshua Kahn for Property Shark

Maybe not everyone in New York is a fan of all the new condos going up, but sometimes good does come out of the inconvenience of noisy construction sites. Founded by Polish immigrants from Mezritch in 1910, the Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue fell into such a state of disrepair it was forced to close its doors six months ago. But before you lament yet another piece of New York history gone, good news. The synagogue is being completely renovated and is scheduled to open its doors again this year, thanks to a new condo plan, reports the New York Daily News. The temple will remain on the ground floor, and "three luxe apartments, including one 11-foot penthouse addition, will be built upstairs" and are scheduled to hit the market this fall. Not everyone is happy about turning part of a religious building "over to for-profit real estate developers," but thanks to the controversial deal, at least the building and the shul will be preserved. According to the Daily News, East River Partners (the developer) "is also planning to pay an annual maintenance fee to keep the shul running for 200 more years." That's a pretty neat compromise.

Photo by Nicholas Strini for Property Shark.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a co-op board takes away a parking space from a little old lady with Parkinson's, saying her car's insurance and registration had lapsed — they hadn't — and that the car didn't run ... so they took away the spot while the car was in the garage to, y'know, run. Doesn't sound like the board's running on all cylinders, either. Same might be said on Fifth Avenue, where a co-op board president who lost a bid for an apartment in her building allegedly decided no one else could buy it, either. Plus, Patrick Stewart makes it so with a condo buy in Brooklyn.

The East River Housing co-op on the Lower East Side remains embroiled in a federal lawsuit involving three shareholders' claims that a dog brought into the no-pet complex was a medical necessity for mental-health issues. As previously covered by Habitat, New York housing courts — generally tenant-friendly — and appeals courts all consistently ruled against the shareholders, finding their requests for disability accommodation to be dubious. The courts, as also covered in Habitat, are aware that scammers have misused disability anti-discrimination laws simply because they want a dog. Here, two of the disability claims came only after the dog was discovered — and a doctor withdrew his support for the third.

Yet after losing in the courts, the shareholders, as The New York Times recently followed up, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is now suing the co-op on their behalf. Speaking for beleaguered boards all over, East River's attorney told the paper, “The board has no problem accommodating pets. The problem is with people trying to sneak in their animals and then thinking they can pull a fast one when they get caught.”

Manhattan's East River Housing has been awarded $30,087.29 in legal fees from a shareholder who sued the cooperative after the board ordered the removal of dog he'd kept in violation of a no-pet policy — and despite the shareholder's after-the-fact claim of disability.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, residents' outrage over rodents reaches a roar in one middle-class Bronx neighborhood's historic old co-ops (albeit spelled "coops"). Meanwhile, in a more upscale area of the borough, a condominium gets millions in tax breaks. Life as usual, in other words. And speaking of taxes, we've news on the class-action suit aiming to make New York City's crazy property-tax calculations fairer, and an Upper East Side condo is suing the MTA for Second Avenue subway-related damage. Plus: Celebrities buy penthouses!

 

Harold "Heshey" Jacob, longtime property manger of the sister co-ops Hillman Houses and East River Housing, knew in 2009 that sludgy and sooty No. 6 heating oil was on its way out. With the help of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who lives in Hillman, he convinced the co-op boards of the 2,500 -unit, seven-building complex to switch to dual-fuel systems using cleaner No. 2 oil and, mainly, natural gas. It was a big, big switch. How did he manage to convince not one but three boards to go that route?

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, we learn that property taxes are going up. That's news? It is when the jump will be 5.5 percent for co-ops and 7.4 percent for condos (per the New York Post) or 7.5 percent for co-ops and 9.6 percent for condos (per The Wall Street Journal) — as opposed to just 3.8 percent for owners of single-family homes! Wait, don't single-family homes already get their assessed values capped at 2 percent each year, while there's no cap on how high co-op and condo valuations can rise? Plus: We've board members who somehow couldn't predict the headline "Deaf Grandfather Fights Condo Board to Keep Service Dog." And isn't all this is exactly the kind of stuff a new co-op / condo social-media site will let apartment-owners talk about amongst themselves?

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, the battle over emotional-support dogs gets even more emotional at East River House, as the feds get into the act. Elsewhere, condo and co-op boards might want to partake of a new program teaching doormen to recognize and report elder abuse. And some in City Council push for property-tax rebates. Plus, co-ops try to more like condos and vice-versa, a new affordable housing program will fill a long-empty condominium in The Bronx's Mount Hope neighborhood, and Ronan Farrow (pictured) may be your new Upper West Side neighbor.

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