New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

UPPER EAST SIDE

Frieda and Howard Dropkin, shareholders at The America co-op at 300 East 85th Street, owe $13,000 in maintenance-payment arrears, the co-op board alleged in a court case decided late last month. Given the arrears and a couple of related issues, the board had moved to evict the couple. But, as the New York Law Journal reports, Judge Jack Stoller wasn't having any of it once he found the board couldn't explain how it calculated any of its shareholders' maintenance charges, let alone the Dropkins'. He also rejected the board's argument that the calculations didn't matter since the "voluntary payment doctrine" would have established the maintenance charge, noting the Dropkins had paid different amounts each month. The board's attorney told the Law Journal it was reviewing the decision to determine how to proceed.

Divorce is never not problematic. Yet while there are many bad things about it, there are good things as well — a new life, new beginnings, Having it stop a foreclosure proceeding on your condominium apartment after you haven't paid common charges for nearly three years is not, however, one of them.

Robert P.J. Booher, the board president of 230 East 71st Street, a 60-unit co-op between Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan, doesn't like surprises. "We want to pinpoint where our vulnerabilities are," he says. "The roof is 10 years old. OK — how much more time can we get out of it? What are we going to do? The pointing is good, but it's been 20 years since we last did it. When should we do it again?"

In 1980, the co-op board president of 142 East 71st Street asked Gerard J. Picaso if he was interested in talking to the seven-person board about managing the newly converted, 42-unit building. Picaso recalls that he had a "great" interview, but afterward, the president confessed to the agent that there was no way the tony East Side board would hire the young, witty manager with the bushy hair and thick mustache. They were more comfortable with the white-gloved elegance and low-key style of a larger, more established firm.

Cuba. Chile. The Upper East Side. What do they have in common? If you go by a lawsuit filed by some shareholders at 1035 Fifth Avenue, each has been the site of a coup. The New York Daily News reports that former Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia CEO Charles Koppelman and others claim there's been a "corporate coup," with the results of a May 13 co-op board election having been overturned after the building's managing agent "found" a proxy that had been set aside "by mistake." Famed interior designer Richard Mishaan, newly elected as board president, was deposed in favor of former Goldman Sachs chairman Eugene Atkinson. Judge Nancy Bannon of New York County Supreme Court, Civil Branch, has barred the co-op board from meeting pending a hearing on June 27.

 

Diana Harfouche, former board president of the Upper East Side, Manhattan, condominium The Impala, ended her time as board leader by overseeing the successful transformation of the property into a smoke-free zone. It was an effort that took the strategic skills of an Eisenhower — yet even so might not have succeeded had the initiative not started with the residents themselves.

New York University  is fighting with its neighbors again — but this time, the miffed neighbor is a condo board. The New York Times is reporting that NYU is trying to connect its Institute of Fine Arts, on the Upper East Side, to a newly donated, ground-floor condominium apartment next door at 3 East 78th Street. The issue? The university wants to create a covered passageway — a breezeway — in an alley between the buildings. But the condo board objects, saying it suspects NYU is using the apartment as a beachhead to eventually buy up the whole building, and that having students as a permanent presence will hurt apartments' market values — said apartments being owned by the likes of the president of Dannon.

The fight, which by now also involves the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Community Board 8, is currently at a stalemate.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week: Seriously? Mark Andermanis, board president of the subsidized Mitchell-Lama co-op East Midtown Plaza, jumps ahead of others to score a four-bedroom apartment — reserved for families of six, which, additionally, he does not have —  and when he won't budge, an alert shareholder sues him. But he gets to keep the primo place because the shareholder doesn't have standing to sue ... and while the co-op board, perhaps, could, here's the thing: He's the co-op board president! Does this sound proper or right to anyone ethical? The good guys do win one, though, when a developer who refused to fix a Long Island condominium complex is permanently barred from selling condos. That's something, at least.

And then there's another reason for condo and co/op boards to be wary of Airbnb....

A trio of New York City statutes instituted last year are designed to make it easier for co-op and condo boards and other building owners and managers to address the extreme-weather effects of climate change, as well as better prepare for emergencies generally. We've written about Local Law 110/2013, which requires, among other things, drinking-water stations that draw separate from the main water line; and Local Law 111/2013, which addresses the complicated rules that govern backup-power generators.

The third leg of this triangle is Local Law 109/2013, which helps make it easier for buildings to install flood barriers.

 

Dec. 19, 2013 — Maro Goldstone is a shareholder of Gracie Terrace Apartment Corporation, at 605 East 82nd Street, a.k.a. 1 Gracie Terrace, in Manhattan. She and her husband, Thomas R. Newman, suffered extensive damage to their apartment when a 10,000-gallon water tank above them overflowed in 2003. The co-op's plan for remediation required a 50-square-foot reduction in the 1,400-plus-square-foot apartment. Goldstone objected, claiming the proposal violated the terms of the proprietary lease. So: May a cooperative corporation, when repairing an apartment, reduce its size?

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