New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021



It's hard enough for condominium associations to go after unit-owners in arrears for their common charges. It's even harder when the unit-owner "gives away" the apartment to somebody outside the country who moves around and doesn't give a forwarding address. And since courts don't recognize it when you serve court papers to the "former" unit-owner — who still lives there — what can a condo board do? Are you out of luck? Is this the magic-trick loophole, the get-out-of-jail-free card, that prevents a board from taking someone in arrears to court?

Maybe so, at least judging from a case still in its early stages involving The Spencer condominium in the Lenox Hill neighborhood of the Upper East Side.

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!

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, the case may have involved a rental landlord, but a court approved "heavy surveillance" to build evidence of an illegal tenant. Condo and co-op boards dealing with illegal hoteling, take note. Elsewhere, the chickens come home to roost and the co-op board says they have to relocate, and at $125 million, a co-op penthouse becomes the most expensive publicly listed home in New York City history. Plus: Co-op board presidents tell their horror stories!

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, the Attorney General brings down the hammer on a real estate attorney we hope wasn't yours, Hell's Kitchen residents want a homeless woman to get the hell away, a family feuds over a Park Avenue co-op, and we've an update on that Florida condo where faith-based discrimination against unmarried straight and gay couples made national headlines. Plus, for condo and co-op boards, we've the latest on the City Council bill for regulating co-op admissions.

Aug. 22, 2013 — The co-op board president and two building managers of the monumental 360 E. 72nd Street, between First and Second Avenues, tell how they swung a refinancing that paid for an $8.5 million refacing from white-brick to red-brick, plus  $3 million dollars in additional upgrades -- not only without raising shareholders' monthly maintenance, but putting $12 million into the co-op's reserve fund.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, long faces on Long Island, as a the FBI arrests two men they allege ran a Ponzi scheme at their Montauk resort containing over 100 co-op apartments. Another kind of white-collar criminal may be robbing you when you apply for a mortgage. And is it criminal to pay $80,000 for parking space at a car condominium? Plus, the co-op board of The Cambridge House sued the City to get Citi Bike racks in front of its building removed — and now the City says it's above the law and the courts have to stay out!

Dumpy. Once upon a time, that was the best word to describe the lobby at 1150 Park Avenue, a Carnegie Hill co-op in Manhattan that featured imitation 18th-century green fabric, English-style furniture in the lobby and wallpaper that imitated stone in the vestibule. "The lobby looked dilapidated, tired and old," recalls board president Lillian Brash.

As the housing market heats up, many co-op and condo boards are taking a fresh look at their lobbies and realizing that if shareholders and unit-owners want to get top dollar, the lobby needs to wow a potential buyer. But renovating a lobby is an expensive undertaking that can cost anywhere from tens to several hundred thousand dollars. Eager to keep costs down, many condo and co-op boards are looking for ways to refresh their lobbies without draining their capital reserves.

The 21-story cooperative at 201 East 66th Street, completed in 1961 and converted to co-op 20 years later, had three aging elevators that broke down frequently. Only two of them went all the way to the basement. "They were kind of limping along," says Jon Shechter, resident manager of the self-run building.

The board decided it was time to replace them with a newer, more efficient system. Yet the building also had to resurface and waterproof its 115-car parking garage and needed to upgrade its mechanical system. Together, the three projects would be expensive: Replacing the elevators alone would cost $750,000, and the new mechanical system could run to about $1.7 million. And the board did not want to levy another assessment on weary residents.

The past three years have been a dizzying time of capital improvements for the residents of 201 East 66th Street, a 21-story co-op at Third Avenue in the Lenox Hill neighborhood of Manhattan. The building finished a major façade improvement, replaced all its elevators, and will soon overhaul its mechanical system. Perhaps even more impressive: the board has not raised maintenance fees to pay for the work, although it did levy an assessment. The secret to the building's success lies in an unusual combination of cheap debt, a hands-on board and in-house management.

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