New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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All Shook Up: Protecting Your Building

Written by Diane Reid on December 08, 2015

Upper East Side


The ever-changing Second Avenue Subway project continues to affect many properties along its path.  If your building is one of them, there area number of steps your board should take to ensure that your co-op or condo is adequately protected.


Hailed as "a piece of suburbia in the city," mud rooms are making for Manhattan.


Uptown residents on both sides of the island are reaching out to architects -- and their boards -- to bring a feature normally seen in single-family homes to their multi-family buildings. Architect Marc Spector told DNAinfo that "he has has several clients on the Upper West and East sides who are buying rights from their co-op boards or condo associations to use part of their building's corridor space — at the end of hallways where it won't create egress issues — to build" these pause points, where family members and guests can drop hats, coats, and boots before entering the unit. According to DNAinfo, "Mud rooms are all the rage in the luxury market right now as more families are embracing a clutter-free ethos ... But even space-starved New Yorkers on a budget can find ways to contain create mud room-like spaces that contain the flotsam they shed when entering their apartments." Will your co-op or condo board start lopping off bits of the hallway for private use? It's hard to say if the trend will catch on, but if you're eyeing your own hall, maybe start talking to the board sooner, rather than later. Winter is coming, after all.


East 95th Street is no stranger to luxury towers. Take the Normandie Court, for example: 4 towers, 34 floors, 1,477 apartments. It's about to get some company. Well, in just under two years, anyway. A 30-story condo tower is due to rise at East 95th, and according to the developer — Extell Development Company — units will be priced between $2.8 and $20 million. DNAinfo reports that Extell — the developer behind Midtown's One57 and a controversial luxury tower on the East River waterfront — has dubbed the project The Kent. It "will include 83 units, with sales expected to begin early next year, according to Katherine McPherson, a spokeswoman for Extell." The tower is scheduled to be completed by fall or winter 2017.


New York City is beyond crowded. And sometimes the city's layout doesn't really help matters. Take this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times, for example. A bus rider in the Upper East Side writes, "A sign in front of an East 79th Street condominium building reads: 'Please do not touch the poles and do not stand underneath the awning as it blocks the entrance to the building. Thank you.' This sign is in front of the M79 bus stop. Is this legal? Does the building 'own' the sidewalk? Can it enforce this request? Should the condo remove the sign?" Oh, boy… Ronda Kaysen responds that while the condo owns the awning, it doesn't own the sidewalk beneath it. Technically, it can't stop anyone from standing there, but it's also "free to post a request on its private property — [just as] a pedestrian standing on a public sidewalk is free to ignore it." It's easy to see how tense a situation like this can get. A better solution, suggests Kaysen, might be for the building and its residents to request a bus shelter by contacting the Department of Transportation's street furniture department. It's a win-win for all. Bus riders will get the shelter they seek and building residents won't have blocked access to the entrance. Sometimes a little thinking outside the box makes life pleasant for everybody. 

You already know co-op and condo prices hit record highs in the second quarter, but if you're wondering which is Manhattan's priciest borough, then wonder no longer. It's the Upper East Side. Okay, so that's no real surprise. When hasn't it been an expensive area? But DNAinfo reports that it's worth more than all of The Bronx. All of it. The whole thing. It's worth more than all of Staten Island, too. According to the article, "the neighborhood's residential property values — totaling about $96 billion — not only beat every other neighborhood in the city and the two outer boroughs in home prices, it's worth more than North and South Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska, according to real estate data enthusiast and entrepreneur Max Galka, who runs a real estate data business called Revaluate." Well, way to go luxury high-rises. Galka based his calculations on sale prices from 2014, property value estimates from the Lincoln Institute and information from the latest U.S. census, according to DNAinfo. 

When you buy into a co-op, you are buying into a community. That's why the admissions package is so important. Yes, a board has to make sure a potential buyer's finances are in order, but it also has to determine whether that buyer is the right fit for the building — and everybody in it. Gauging personality is certainly challenging, especially when boards have to take care not to discriminate against any of the protected classes. Sometimes, boards don't get it right, and the results can be quite frightening. Just ask one co-op shareholder in the Upper East Side, who tells Ronda Kaysen his nightmarish tale in this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. One of his neighbors is harassing him: "A neighbor in my c-op smashes my door with his shoes and fists because my child is playing the piano during accepted times of day; … prevents me from getting out of the elevator while yelling expletives; … blocks me from getting out of my car in the building garage; and … pulled my tie in the lobby, choking me." This is certainly far more serious than a spat between neighbors.

Installing air-conditioners is, or should be, serious business. For example, there are safety guidelines that must be followed to ensure nobody gets hurt. But is a building manager in a co-op on the Upper East Side taking things a little to the extreme? A shareholder who lives in the building writes to Ronda Kaysen in this week's Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times: "I have an air-conditioner in my living room window, which is one of two windows that look out onto the fire escape. The air-conditioner does not block access to the fire escape. However, my building manager says city rules prohibit an air-conditioner in a fire escape window. But the Bureau of Fire Prevention told me that I could have one in that window as long as it does not extend out onto the fire escape. Who is correct?" Who is correct indeed… Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and we've already had a few steamy days with plenty more in store for us. That means people will be dusting off those air-conditioners. Kaysen begins by reminding everyone that a fire escape "is not an unofficial balcony to be adorned with potted plants or blocked by an air-conditioner. A fire escape is what its name suggests: an escape route for people fleeing or fighting a fire. And it should be free of obstructions." That said, she adds that the arrangement the shareholder describes "might be permitted by city rules. In general, residents are prohibited from installing air-conditioners in fire escape windows. But they can install one in a fire escape window if the apartment has a second window onto the fire escape that is large enough to be used as an emergency exit." A small window will obviously not do, and, adds Kaysen, the air-conditioner should not extend more than five inches onto the fire escape balcony or obstruct the flow of foot traffic, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Safety first, even if it means sweating a little.

Earlier this year, Curbed put together a map of 18 rental-to-condo conversions that were in progress, just completed, or in the pipeline. A lot of those were on the Upper East Side, including the building formerly known as The Wellington. According to Curbed the condo will now be called 200 East 62nd Street — which is just as well since now it won't "be confused with Wellington Tower, 20 blocks north." There are no new renderings for us to feast our eyes on yet, but the developer, O'Connor Capital Partners, did release some juicy details. The building will consist of 115 condos, and units will include everything from one to five bedrooms. The ticket price? Units start at a cool $2.12 million. That may sound like a lot, but it's probably cheaper than Brooklyn.

We've been hearing for some time that Brooklyn is getting ridiculously expensive — Manhattan-levels of expensive. Just a month ago, Brickunderground reported that the price difference between Brooklyn and Manhattan is shrinking, while we remembered days of old, when people who couldn't afford to live in the Big City had to settle for the consolation prize: a decent apartment in Brooklyn. Well, it's starting. People in Brooklyn are getting priced out and moving to… Manhattan. Who'd have thunk it? The New York Times reported that "five years ago, Eric Kabakoff and Christina Lewandowski bought a one-bedroom in a new condominium in Gowanus, Brooklyn, with the idea of moving to a two-bedroom in the same building after a while." After being outbid on two apartments there, "the couple realized their $750,000 budget was not going to be enough." Gosh, that's not even an entire million. In a case of "go figure," they found places in their (rather ample to many of us) budget in Manhattan, and settled for their consolation prize: a two-bedroom co-op a block from Central Park in Carnegie Hill on the Upper East Side. A block from the park. On the Upper East Side. Let that sink in, because when prices in Brooklyn get so high that a place a block from Central Park on the Upper East Side is a bargain, you know we're done for.

Photo by Rik Lee

Looks like a few residents of 45 East 66th Street had a rotten weekend, including one of its more famous ones: Rudolph W. Giuliani. Despite his objections, even the former New York City mayor couldn't stop the Landmarks Preservation Commission from greenlighting an application to construct a new penthouse on top of the existing 11th-floor penthouse at the tony building with the Gothic terracotta façade, reports Curbed. Also against the proposal are Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City and Community Board 8. But it looks like the commission was satisfied with the plans it reviewed, which according to Curbed, would match in color and barely be "visible from most vantage points on the street." So it looks like soon Giuliani will next be complaining about construction work at the landmarked building.

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