New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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CARNEGIE HILL

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a Chelsea condo board has won its battle with a downstairs gym, New York City investigates possible fraud by Lower East Side co-op board members and a Queens co-op says it's not soulless. The Comptroller says the City goes too easy on water-bill deadbeats, raising rates for the rest of us. An expert answers: Are condo boards as powerful as co-op boards? And Law & Order's Richard Belzer sells his co-op. Dun dun!

At 1150 Park Avenue, an 89-unit Manhattan co-op, the board decided to convert to a dual-fuel system that could run on No. 2 oil or natural gas, says Daniel Storr, the board treasurer. Storr reports that his building and others in the neighborhood had a deal with Con Edison to service the area as long as they made necessary internal changes to accommodate gas service.

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.

It might not seem as big a dilemma as the need to replace windows or other big capital projects, but in terms of your apartments' market value and your building's first impression on visitors and prospective buyers alike, a dilapidated or out-of-date lobby can be a kiss of death — or at least a hug of disappointment. Yet as many board members know all too well, lobby renovation can be one of the most contentious and time-consuming projects in any condo or co-op board's tenure. It can seem like a task of unmanageable proportions.

But it's not. You simply need to do break it down into steps. Just make sure they're the right steps.

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