Written by Tom Soter on March 16, 2016
It was a crisis that brought out representatives of the New York City Fire Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, Con Ed, even the New York Small Business Administration (SBA) – but, paradoxically, few of the residents in the 328-unit building were even aware that anything unusual was going on.
March 04, 2016
In most co-op and condo buildings, the super helps residents with minor side jobs – painting a room, hanging a light fixture, maybe even installing a dishwasher. The resident and super usually agree to a price, and it’s usually paid in cash. Some residents worry about alienating the super if they seek outside bids for such work. A co-op shareholder on the Upper East Side has a question for the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times: “Should a super be held to a standard of ethics regarding bidding on a job or receiving payment?”
“Residents should never feel beholden to the staff on site,” says Mark Levine, a principal of Excel Bradshaw Management Group. “The work should be done by the most qualified technician for that particular job.”
Policies on moonlighting supers vary. While some buildings have lax oversight, others spell out that building staff is not allowed to perform side jobs while they’re on the clock. Some even forbid staff from any moonlighting in-house.
“Some buildings do have a rule that prohibits such work to avoid these types of problems,” says real estate attorney Adam Finkelstein. If you’re unsure about your building’s policies, ask the board for clarity. Boards that don’t have a policy in place might consider instituting one – along with a mechanism for enforcing it.
If you do hire the super, be aware of the risks. Does he have the necessary skills to do the work? If a pipe springs a leak, does he have adequate insurance to cover any damages?
“It’s easy to have the staff members taking care of these projects,” says Levine, “but it’s not always in the best interests of the building.”
Written by Bill Morris on December 10, 2015
No, the sky wasn’t falling. Hundreds of bricks were falling – from the exterior wall of a high floor on the 34-story co-op at 340 E. 64th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The bricks rained on the surrounding streets and sidewalks shortly before 10 p.m. on Dec. 7. Miraculously, no one was injured. The worst casualty was the shattered rear windshield of a taxicab.
“Thank God nobody was hurt,” Dr. Romana Farrington, a resident of the building, told WABC-TV News. “That’s the most important thing.”
Written by Diane Reid on December 08, 2015
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.
November 06, 2015
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.
October 19, 2015
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.
July 06, 2015
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.
May 26, 2015
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.
Thinking of buying a co-op or condo? Already bought, and not sure how co-op/condo life and rules work? Learn all about purchasing a place and living in your new community. It's not like renting, and its not like owning a house. What's it like?