New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



It often starts with a leak or an on-again-off-again boiler or a high energy bill. In short, the process starts with a problem requiring extensive repairs or replacement. And that can be a major challenge itself. In fact, the amount of money, time, coordination, and risk in a major capital improvement program can stop many a brave board from proceeding. Or at least slow them down. And the larger the co-op or condo, the more complex the challenges. There are bid specifications to be written and then analyzed, contractors to be vetted and chosen, and expensive contracts to sign. Once that is done, there are the logistics to work out: sometimes equipment has to be built on the spot, and other times there are difficulties just getting it through the door, transporting it into the basement, or moving it up to the roof. Then, there is the question of access and scheduling: various contractors have to be worked into the overall timetable, residents usually have to be relocated while work is being done, and, of course, they have to agree to let workers into their apartments. 

Designed by architects at Philip Birnbaum & Associates and built in 1968, Plaza 400 — a 591-unit building on East 56th Street — was originally a rental and became a co-op during the conversion boom of the 1980s. It is self-managed, with a 24-hour doorman and concierge, as well as a seasonal rooftop heated pool, a common sundeck with views of the Manhattan skyline, a skytop lounge, and a fitness center. There is also a children's playroom, a bike room, and a 24-hour attended parking garage.

Plaza 400 board successfully completed not one but three capital improvement projects. The building is a textbook case of the steps a board needs to take when doing major overhauls to a building's infrastructure.

You've probably heard of crowd-funding, especially if you're on Facebook or any similar social media. It's a way for people to solicit funds for any number of projects via a crowd-funding platform. So, if you're a musician who doesn't have a powerful label backing you, you might use a crowd-funding platform to raise money for your next album. A craftsperson might use it to try to get his or her first business off the ground. Many people even use crowd-funding for charitable efforts or to try to offset medical expenses. Well, hold onto your hats, folks, because New York City's first crowd-funded condo project is about to hit the market. According to the New York Daily News, the project was "partially financed by investors who chipped in as little as $50,000 for a share." With apartment prices starting at $1.2 million, says the Daily News, "for once, the profits from the sale of pricey condos won't only enrich the developer." That's something. The project is a joint venture between crowd-funding platform The Prodigy Network and corporate apartment provider Korman Communities. The team "raised more than 10% of its equity from small-time investors to acquire and renovate the building. [And] those investors will catch their fiscal windfall when the building's condos sell out — and stand to make the 15% return that would normally line the developer's pocket." Not too shabby. The condos, located at 234 East 46th Street between Second and Third avenues, are all one-bedroom units and will very likely get snapped up by United Nations delegates. After all, nobody can resist a nice digs and an easy commute.

Photo by Prodigy Network

Ever wish you could live in the Waldorf Astoria? Well, your wish may come true, but you better prepare to have more than just a whole lot of money. The Real Deal (TRD) has learned that Anbang Insurance Group, which just paid almost $2 billion for the Waldorf, plans to convert the iconic hotel's two towers into condos. TRD obtained a transcript of a recent talk Anbang's chairman Wu Xiaohui gave at Harvard University. "We plan to renovate the two towers into luxury residential apartments with world-class amenities and finishes to reflect its culture and social status. A potential buyer needs to have more than money to qualify for our apartments," he said. How intriguing. What could it be? Celebrity? Clout? Lots of property? The Waldorf Towers operates as a 181-room boutique hotel within the Waldorf, and currently occupies the top floors of the 47-story building. It has a separate entrance on 50th Street, amenities include a fitness center, and it's just a hop, skip, and a taxi from Midtown's ultra-luxury billionaires' row. 

Photo by Christopher Bride for Property Shark

What happens when a developer that plans to build a high-rise condo needs access to the neighboring condo to do prep work and is refused entry? They sue, of course. DNAinfo reports that developer Erik Ekstein needs to "demolish the five-story Madison Avenue Baptist Church at 30 E. 31st Street, but the neighboring condo building, M127, has refused to let workers inside." The developer filed a lawsuit on January 13 in New York Supreme Court against M127 for delaying work. According to the report, M127's managing board denied the developer access to its roof, side yard, and backyard so it can install temporary crack and vibration monitors and waterproofing, along with scaffolding. DNAinfo adds that a member of M127's managing board declined to comment. It's, therefore, not clear what motivated the board to refuse the developer access to its building, but it's potentially made a costly mistake. A lawsuit means time and money wasted. Existing condo (and co-op) boards should take note and not make the same mistake. It's only a matter of time before a developer begins building a new condo right next door — especially given all the construction anticipated this year.  

The building was just known as 209 East 56th Street in 1989 when Mark Greenberg Real Estate (MGRE) was hired as manager; it wasn’t until years later, when the board decided that a building name would help sales, that the co-op was rechristened The Sterling. The name’s greatest significance was in how it was devised: The board involved every shareholder, using a survey to choose a name.

That’s not unusual for the hands-on board, whose members believe in the personal touch. In 1991, the 107-unit property between Second and Third Avenues, was managed by a large firm that was “nickel-and-diming us, and that would drive me crazy,” says Mary Ann Savarese, who first served as the head of the tenants’ group and continued on as the president, a post she still holds. “We needed a change.”

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week: Remember that deaf grandfather a couple of weeks ago in Battery Park City, where the condo board disapproved a service dog? Yeah, that dog died, but the man has another one and the board's not pursuing eviction. However, the homeowner is still pursuing an anti-discrimination lawsuit. In better news for boards, the U.S. Senate is delaying an increase in the cost of mandatory flood insurance — and speaking of which, some New York City property managers are encouraging serious disaster-prep at their buildings. Plus, it's the latest amenity: personal shoppers! Which they still don't have at Billy Joel's former co-op, now up for sale.

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.

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.

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!

1 2 3 4

Ask the Experts

learn more

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

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?