New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

UPPER EAST SIDE

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

Nowadays everyone is going on and on about One57 and all the new shiny condos cropping up on Billionaires' Row and beyond, but back in 2008 — a rough year for many people — 823 Park Avenue was enjoying its moment in the sun. According the New York Daily News, the still-swanky building "initially drew waves of high-profile finance types and even former New York Rangers star Brendan Shanahan, commanded top dollar during the last real estate boom, with the penthouse selling for a whopping $30.5 million in 2008." Those were the days. But it looks like the honeymoon's been over for some time. The Park Avenue building, which "was once the cream of the crop … has recently fallen out of favor with buyers." The reason? Mold. And now the very wealthy residents of the luxury condo building are suing the building's developer, Elliot Joseph's Property Markets Group, which converted the building from rentals in 2005. There's the usual he said/she said. But the bottom line is that even the mega-rich aren't immune from a little grief in the city, and that while the main thing in the real estate game is location, location, location, it suddenly means nothing when it means dealing with an issue like gross mold.

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.

For such a relatively rare real-estate instrument, ground leases have been in the news a fair bit lately. And now the shareholders of Trump Plaza, at 167 East 61st Street in Manhattan, are getting news they might prefer to live without. As Bloomberg Businessweek reports, the family that owns the land beneath the 31-year-old luxury co-op wants to sell it — and the $185 million that the co-op board offered could hit some residents with an assessment of more than $1 million each. “People are calling me to stop this from happening,” said attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, principal of his namesake firm, who has been contacted by some owners wanting to keep the sale, and the assessment, from happening. But equally concerning is how much the ground-lease rent would go up another, outside buyer. In that scenario, the board projects, a monthly maintenance fee of $2,100 would increase to $9,800 when the lease resets in 20124.

A doorman who helped save the life of an elderly tenant trapped in her apartment for two days with a broken hip. A porter who collapsed on smoke-filled stairs after having helped get residents out of their apartments during a fire. An engineer and former New York City Department of Buildings inspector who became the super for a six-building, 1,700-apartment complex. They and 18 other city residential and office workers each took home a prize as the best in their categories in the 2014 Building Service Workers Awards.

The St. Tropez Condominium at 340 East 64th Street in Manhattan appears to be a nice place to live. The historic 34-story building — famous in real-estate circles as the first condominium in New York City and probably New York State, completed a year after passage of the state's Condominium Act of 1964 — sits in the tony Lenox Hill neighborhood of the Upper East Side, and boasts a pool, a gym, a garage, a roof deck and a children's playroom among its amenities. According to one survey, its 301 apartments sell for an average of nearly $2 million each.

So why would its condo association hold a homeowners meeting in a vacant commercial space with uneven floors rather than in a nice, safe community room or somewhere similar? Because it just seems that if the board members had only asked themselves that question they could have avoided all the unpleasantness that followed.

Sept. 21, 2009 — We don't usually write laundry-industry trade stories, but we're invoking the kids-with-cancer exception. That's the one that says that if a company with some connection to your usual beat does something to help kids with cancer, you write about it.

The company in this case is the Hercules Corp. of Hicksville, N.Y., a longtime laundry-room service provider for co-ops, condos and others. Founded 50 years ago this year, Hercules last week donated 12 new industrial-strength front-load washers and nine similarly commercial-grade dryers to the New York City Ronald McDonald House, a major pediatric oncology facility and a provider of low-cost accommodations to the families of gravely ill children being treated in the many nearby hospitals.

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