New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

UPPER EAST SIDE

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.

It's not likely your co-op or condo neighbor is suffering from Ebola fever. Nope. Highly unlikely. Statistically almost impossible. And yet EMS workers who have to know about this kind of thing still got suited up in full hazmat attire when responding to two people in respiratory and cardiac distress at a Park Avenue condominium near East 61st Street on Thursday, writes the New York Daily News. And while neither was listed as "fever/travel patients," the FDNY's code for people suffering from Ebola-like symptoms, the paper said, there was no word as of this writing whether Ebola had been confirmed or ruled out. And what with Crain's New York Business reporting that the Harlem-based African Services Committee considers it essential to gain the cooperation of New York's West African community in order to contain Ebola's spread here, we'd certainly advise board members to read up on Ebola fact vs. myth.

What does a cooperative need to prove when it sues a shareholder in landlord/tenant court for non-payment? These cases go to trial so rarely that people may not look at the proof the co-op must proffer.

But in 300 East 85th Housing Corp. v. Dropkin, the court considered the co-op's proofs and rendered a decision that is worth examining for several reasons.

Just when you think you've heard every claim a New York City shareholder can make against a co-op board, along comes a shareholder who makes an allegation so out of left field, it's not even from the Yankees' or the Mets' left field but from the left field of, I dunno, Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. 

The claim? That a co-op employee owed him a fiduciary duty to take his side in a dispute ... because they were sleeping together.

At the co-op 1107 Fifth Avenue, an apartment that was once the city's largest has been sold to hedge-fund honcho Mark Kingdon, founder of Kingdon Capital Management, for $30.9 million, reports the New York Daily News. And this marks the end of a circuitous journey for the 10-room penthouse with a wraparound terrace, which Peruvian billionaire Carlos Rodriguez Pastor had previously wanted to buy. So did the co-op board's president, Maureen Klinsky. She bid $21 million, Pastor bid $27.5 million, and the board naturally accepted Pastor's higher offer. Which then begs the question of who was behind the board suddenly deciding it was going to build a shared roof deck for all the shareholders — accessible only by the penthouse terrace? And then shifting gears and deciding it was going to do repairs that would limit an owner's access to the terrace? Pastor sued and withdrew his bid — though Klinksy still didn't get to guy it. As Curbed.com has written of all this: "Co-ops: They're just like high school except nobody graduates unless they die."

As even disability-rights advocates like Service Dog Central point out, case law relating to the federal Fair Housing Act allows even a bona fide service animal to be removed from an apartment building "if the presence of the animal causes a fundamental alteration of the goods and services offered to other tenants. For example, a dog that nuisance barks keeping neighbors awake at night...." Yet as the New York Daily News reports, a family at an East 86th Street co-op is suing the board in order to keep a support dog that the board's attorney says is a barking nuisance — with the family rebuffing requests to train the dog to diminish barking or to soundproof the apartment. Harriet Woodard says her 32-year-old daughter Elizabeth suffers from mast cell activation syndrome, and her dog Olivia instinctively alerts her to trigger foods or to lie down when her blood pressure is about to spike. All well and good. Still doesn't explain the family's selfish refusal to soundproof.

With Residents Away, the Board Will Play, To Get the Right Size Water Heater

Written by Meave Gallagher, with reporting by Tom Soter on September 10, 2014

York River House, 1175 York Avenue, Upper East Side

Credit Ira Meister, president of Matthew Adam Properties, with a "brilliant" idea. That's what Jacqueline Stein, board secretary at York River House, a 225-unit Upper East Side building he manages, calls his method to save dollars.

As part of a renovation to switch from No. 6 oil to dual-fuel boilers for heating, the York River House also wanted to install new, high-efficiency hot water heaters and storage tanks — a common project for a green-thinking building. But the cooperative's approach was anything but typical. "Ira figured out that we should really see who was gone over the summer," says Stein.

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