New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

MIDTOWN

It's no secret that the world of New York City real estate is a complex one. It's kind of incredible that there's so much construction happening everywhere you look —considering that, oftentimes, plans can take a long time to finally come into fruition. Take the redevelopment of the American Bible Society at 1865 Broadway, for example. The concept that YIMBY featured in early 2014 fell through. But now it looks like things are starting to move forward again. YIMBY explains that "Skidmore Owings & Merrill has been tapped to design the project, and thanks to a tipster’s submission of diagrams for the project, [YIMBY was] able to create renderings that are a close approximation of what the building will ultimately look like." Check it out. Provided these latest plans don't fizzle out, when the tower is completed, there will be 26 condos for the taking, "all either two or three bedrooms besides a 4,000-square-foot four-bedroom unit on the penthouse level."

Rendering by New York YIMBY 

Take a walk in Midtown along Madison Avenue and what do you see? The sidewalk is very likely thick with people, including slow-moving, photo-snapping tourists, and commuters dashing in and out tall office buildings. And construction. Lots of it. Anywhere you turn there are construction crews and buildings rising that seem to jockey for position. Which brings us to the next question: what do you hear? Traffic. Lots of it: buses roaring up and down streets, cars and cabs honking horns, sirens screaming until your ears can't take it anymore. It's probably the last place you might imagine for a condo tower, but that's what's rising on Madison and 33rd Street. According to Tessler Developments, the 30-story luxury condo is in design development and once completed, in the second quarter of 2016, it will consist of 69 units. "Aware that residents of lower floors might have objected to passersby being able to peer into their homes," reported The New York Times late last week, "the developer made the building’s base tall, so that the first residential floor doesn’t start until about 40 feet in the air, versus 15 feet in comparable buildings." You may ask yourself who in the world would want to live in such a congested part of the city, and — like The Times — you may think the notion of location is no longer important to those snapping up luxury units like candy, but what wouldn't some of us give to be able to roll out of bed and enjoy an easy, short-ish commute to the office every morning? 

 

A couple in Midtown owns a studio apartment in a prewar co-op. They use it as a pied-à-terre, but are considering buying the one-bedroom next door to expand their space. Thanks to an elevator shaft, the two apartments cannot be combined. "This does not trouble us because the apartments are the only two on the floor," the couple tells Ronda Kaysen in this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. "Since we will not need two kitchens, we would like to remove the kitchen from the one-bedroom, enlarging that unit’s living room, and just use the studio’s kitchen. Do any laws or regulations require an apartment to have a kitchen?" That's a very good question, and one that highlights why potential buyers should check out Co-op/Condo Buyers corner where you can find tips on buying an apartment in the city. In this case, the couple will be getting a lesson not only in the types of renovations that are not allowed because of building codes but also the importance of alteration agreements. Kaysen explains that "the city requires all apartments to have [a kitchen]. So unless you combined the units, the Department of Buildings would never sign off on [the couple's] plan." It's also a matter of perspective. When we buy an apartment it's very easy to think, well, it's mine and I want to make this change. Why shouldn't I be able to? But when you purchase into a co-op, it's not just about your home, but also about the entire building's well-being. Kaysen points out that such a "modification would diminish the value of the apartment, so if you were to foreclose, the building would be left trying to sell an apartment that might be worth less than in its current form…. But remember, whatever you do, one day you may want to sell that apartment and you would be hard-pressed to find a buyer who does not want a kitchen." 

Right now, seven new mega towers are rising along Billionaires' Row, with five more in the works. Community Board 5's Sunshine Task Force says that's quite enough, thanks. The group, reports DNAinfo, is calling for a moratorium on new towers taller than 600 feet along the 57th Street corridor. According to Layla Law-Gisiko, the task force chair, "current zoning rules have not caught up with the supertall towers, which are newly possible because of technological advances." Law-Gisiko told DNAinfo that the task force is not interested in waging a war against development, but rather ensure "good, comprehensive zoning and planning." There are also other concerning issues that need to be addressed, the task force says, including access to air and sunlight, the manner in which these towers affect infrastructure, construction dangers, and tax loopholes that allow "owners to pay lower property taxes." The board also "wants condos registered under the names of actual people, rather than limited liability corporations [as well as] a pied-a-tierre tax to avoid the apartments becoming investment properties for owners who don't live there." Is this it for the shiny, glass mega towers? 

It's not easy being green. Just ask the board of Parc Vendome in Midtown Manhattan. It has spent the past four years making its prewar condominium greener. And it has done that by relying on state-vetted partners to help it navigate a state-sponsored improvement program.

Learning how to get a partner may be an essential skill in the coming years. "Right now, the multi-family performance program is in a period of transition," says Brian Nieves, a sales representative at Daylight Savings, which is a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) partner. "NYSERDA is looking to get away from providing cash incentives."

When Parc Vendome first began its energy improvements, it selected the Ithaca-based engineering firm Performance Systems Development. The company conducted a $40,000 energy study of the four-building complex, delivering to the 576-unit condo an in-depth analysis of its property. "It allowed me to really look at the building on a larger scale," says Brenda Colberg, the on-site Charles H. Greenthal property manager for Parc Vendome.

Construction at the megatower on Billionaires' Row may almost be finished, but it has stopped for the third time in less than a year. According to the Daily News, the Department of Buildings (DOB) halted construction at One57 after "a four by four-foot piece of Plexiglass fell from the 22nd floor of a glitzy new tower at 157 W. 57th St., crashing onto two parked cars." Yikes! The Wall Street Journal, which originally reported the story, adds that "Extell Development can’t resume building until it shows it can carry out the job safely." Luckily, nobody was hurt, but after three incidents, people are getting increasingly anxious about walking anywhere near the building. You can't blame them, either. Even if it had been a single incident, falling glass from a building, especially one that tall, is pretty scary indeed. 

It seemed straightforward enough: The co-op board of 26 East 38th Street in Manhattan wanted to take possession of an apartment being sublet without permission. But the shareholder was in jail for running a tax-fraud scheme from home. And the subtenant, a gay-nightlife fixture and Fox News hairstylist, was passing himself off as the shareholder's lawyer. Whether the board was successful or not, one thing's for sure: This wasn't your usual repossession case.

In the ever-amusing annals of things co-op and condo boards shouldn't do, one of them is breaking into an apartment during a legal dispute. This wouldn't seem to be a point of which boards, or people in general, need reminding. But at the Park South co-op, at 200 Central Park South in Manhattan, that's just what the board did during an ongoing lawsuit — and even though the shareholder was in the building at the time.

The human body is a beautiful thing ... except for that guy on the nude beach over there, or that lady with the thing, or whoever that is staring at me out of my mirror. Oh, wait.... Anyway, the point is that we should get to pick and choose when or where we're looking at naked people. And according to the New York Daily News, the condo board of the Ritz Tower, at 465 Park Avenue, doesn't want its residents forced to gaze upon three floors plus rooftop hot tubs belonging to a “nudity friendly” spa next door. In fact, the board is suing the Spa Castle being built in The Galleria Condominium not only for this "public nuisance" but also for building up the roof in a way that blocks some apartments' views and violates a 1974 agreement with The Galleria's former owners. Yet Spa Castle, in response to a cease-and-desist letter, “actually accelerated the work being performed," the suit alleges. Only in Nude York, kids, only in Nude York.

What's with ground leases so much in the news lately? In our second item about them in a week, a consortium is paying $285 million for the land beneath Carnegie House, the 324-unit co-op at 100 West 57th Street. Since ground-lease rents are typically 6 percent of current market value, reports The Real Deal, rising New York real estate prices means the current $4.4 million rent the cooperative pays annually would be $27 million if the rent were to be reset today — so what's it going to be in 10 years, when the rent is scheduled to be reset? Which brings to mind a variation on the old joke: How do you get to Carnegie House? By having enough money to make ground-lease payments the size of Montana.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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?