New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Cutting Down on the Cost, Danger & Disruption from a Gas Leak

Written by Bill Morris on January 13, 2016


When an explosion in the East Village left two people dead and three buildings in ruins last year, New Yorkers got a grisly reminder just how serious - and deadly - gas leaks can be. So when a worker at the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts gallery in Soho smelled gas a few months after the East Village explosion, everyone went on high alert.

The fire department rushed to the elegant cast-iron building at 31-33 Mercer Street, a five-story, 12-unit co-op that's home to the Feldman gallery and an eclectic mix of artists, architects, writers and photographers - the kind of people who used to live in Soho before it became a sprawling shopping mall. The building's gas was immediately shut off. Crews from Con Ed and the city's Department of Buildings (DOB) arrived, beginning an ordeal that would spiral into a "nightmare," in the words of the co-op board's president.

But this nightmare inspired some creative financial thinking that got the building healthy - and safe - while saving the shareholders a pile of money.


Soho is getting it's own Flatiron Building. The boat-shaped structure at 10 Sullivan Street is almost complete. Curbed writes that the 16-story, 203-foot-tall structure will have 22 condos, ground floor retail, and — are you ready? — parking. Considering how many parking lots in and out of the city are vanishing to make way for condos, that's pretty neat. The Cary Tamarkin-designed project, which is being developed by Property Markets Group and Madison Equities, "has been billed as 'the highest residence in all of Soho.'" Well the highest is the $45 million 8,359-square-foot triplex penthouse, which boasts a 23-foot-tall ceiling, two wraparound balconies, a roof deck, and a private pool. It's good to be the king.

Photo of 10 Sullivan Street via New York YIMBY.


In a corner in Soho rises a six-story development — a boutique condominium, which is the posh way of saying, "Don't expect a whole lot of space." In the case of 52 Wooster, potential buyers should also not expect a whole lot of amenities, save for some complimentary storage in the basement. No pet spas, no gym, no playground. The developer spins it as "a move that decisively bucks a trend" and that touts more of "a private-home feeling." But as Jane Gol, the president of Continental Ventures — the condo's developer — points out to The New York Times, people can go outside to find the things they need. Pet spas and gyms are a dime a dozen in Soho, so that's the place to be if you're building isn't bursting with a load of extras. Despite having "to contend with a shoehorn-tight construction site at the corner of Broome Street," the site measures about 100 feet long and 25 feet wide. The space was a former parking lot, and to make up for the lack of amenities, "Continental is maximizing the apartment layouts, making them as sweeping as those in the older lofts found throughout the neighborhood." The units go on sale this month. How much? Around $2,500 a square foot — or $5 million for the three-bedrooms, and it will be move-in ready by next year.

Rendering from Kim Wendell Design

Fire escapes. Who needs 'em? Not 69 or 71 Green Street in SoHo, according to architect Joseph Pell Lombardi, who has been pushing to remove them. DNAinfo reports that, despite pushback from the community and the New York City Fire Department, Lombardi has gotten the green light from the Department of Buildings (DOB) to remove the fire escapes from 69 Greene Street. So why does an architect who is described as "a preservation specialist" want to remove fire escapes that the building residents say "are an integral part of the block's character"? Well, Lombardi insists that "the fire escapes are not old enough to be considered historic, and that they are unsafe." Just so we're clear, residents are not kicking up a fuss simply because the fire escapes look pretty and have been part of the architectural landscape for a long time. They are genuinely concerned that losing "them would affect their ability to evacuate in the event of a fire." Take away the fire escapes and their only exit is an internal staircase. Made of wood. Uh… Granted, the buildings are being renovated, including said wooden staircase, and perhaps this is the reason why the DOB gave the go-ahead, despite written testimony submitted by an FDNY engineer "expressing misgivings about the fire escapes' removal." According to DNAinfo, the same FDNY engineer, John Yacovone, sent an e-mail Wednesday to the building's management company, Esquire Management, 'respectfully request[ing] that [they] cease and desist' with any alterations to the building geared toward the fire escape removal, after worried tenants reported construction workers nailing the door to the second floor fire escape shut last Monday." According to one of Lombardi's employees, the architect will learn this week whether he has the green light for 71 Greene Street.

Photo by Kate Leonova for Property Shark

Bylaws can be tricky things. Most boards believe they can only be amended by, depending on the governing documents, a majority or a supermajority vote of the co-op shareholders or condo unit-owners. But depending on how your co-op propriety lease or condo articles of incorporation are written, boards may actually have the power to amend bylaws on their own, without a homeowner vote. The tricky part? Boards themselves can't remove amendments that homeowners approve — they can only remove amendments that a board approved.

Such was the tricky nature of bylaws in the case of a Manhattan cooperative trying to collect a sublet fee from a commercial tenant.

Legal Case Notes: Can Boards Charge a Commercial Tenant a Sublet Fee?

Written by Richard Siegler and Dale J. Degenshein on July 30, 2013

136 Greene Street, SoHo, Manhattan

Co-op shareholder Thomas Campaniello owned the shares of a commercial unit at the cooperative at 136 Greene Street in Manhattan. In 2006, he signed a lease with the co-op board. Four years later, when he sought to sublease the space for $60,000 a month, the board refused to give consent unless he paid what his lawsuit called an "exorbitant sublet fee" of 10 percent of the monthly rent, based on a bylaw amendment that the board — not the residents — had adopted. Campaniello asserted he was forced to sign a written agreement consenting to pay the fee as well as $3,000 for the co-op board's legal costs, and was told if he didn't sign, he would have been denied permission to sublet.

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.

$1 million will buy you a pretty good, though hardly high-end, New York City co-op or condo ... or one parking space — because that's the price tag on each of the 10 being offered by the developer of the under-construction 42 Crosby Street condominium at the corner of Broome and Crosby in SoHo, reports The New York Times. The spaces — first come, first served for buyers in the 10-unit building — are bigger than a single lane, some as large as 200 square feet, each with storage space and a charging station for electric and hybrid cars. Technically, they're just being leased for 99 years, which means if you sell the condo you have to give up the space. A Tribeca sparking space sold for $345,459 last year, with the average being $136,052, the paper said.

It seems to be theme week this time around in Ronda Kaysen's "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times, with three items involving renters in a co-op or a condo. First up, a Murray Hill co-op board and its super won't provide proof that a rule no one told a departing renter about really exists. Next, a SoHo loft owner — which is a lot like a condo owner; just go with it — with a tenant needs to know just how far his repair obligations go in terms of precisely matching the paint in the loft below after a leak. Not sure why both the question and the answer refer to a "subtenant" rather than just a tenant, which is what the New York City Loft Board calls them, but whatever. Finally, a condominium sponsor and a condo board in the West Village appear to be at odds — stranding rent-stabilized tenants who need repairs done.

One day in February 2012, a fragment of stone façade chipped away from the two-building, 14-unit condo at 42-50 Wooster Street. "The previous winter had been very cold, and this little piece — maybe two inches wide — fell down," says Liz Sabosik of The Andrews Organization, the condominium's property manager. "It must have taken on a little water, frozen and popped off. So we immediately set up a sidewalk shed and started interviewing architects."

While the main problem was dealing with damage as a result of shifting buildings, the board seized the opportunity to take on some proactive work. Board members realized they could save money in the long run by piggybacking onto this main project the smaller projects that would eventually need to be completed.

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