New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Chuck Wall, the board president, and the other four board members of the Alexandria House have had a busy three years. And although they have faced a set of daunting challenges, they have moved methodically and tirelessly forward, not focusing on the problems but rather the solutions.

The story of the 74-unit cooperative, at 250 West 103rd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue and managed by Orsid Realty, starts with a fairly routine event in the life of most co-ops: the board's previous mortgage came due. With an eye to future capital projects, the board refinanced its mortgage for $2.5 million (of which $1.75 million went to pay down the first mortgage and the balance went into the reserves). The building also took out a half-a-million-dollar line of credit. Not too long after that, the co-op got hit with a one-two punch that could easily have sent them reeling. 

New Yorkers love their views. They also don't shy away from expressing their displeasure when it comes to having those views obstructed — even if it's a lost cause. You might say that a New Yorker who doesn't complain isn't really a New Yorker. When the 14-tower got the green light in 2013 to rise on the north side of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side, people were ticked off. They tried to stop it, but, reports DNAinfo, "the cathedral said it needed the millions of dollars generated by the [Brodsky Organization's 428-unit residential condo] each year in order to fund deferred repairs and maintenance on the aging structure." That doesn't mean Upper West Siders are going to quit kvetching about it, especially now that the tower is taking shape and blocking views of the historic cathedral. 

It's easy to forget that one of the byproducts of all this new condo construction is disruption of life as usual — unless you live across the street from it, that is. Take the rental building across the street from a luxury condo that is under construction. One of its tenants wrote to Ronda Kaysen's latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times explaining that a structure has been erected in front of the rental building to accommodate fire trucks from the station, likewise across the street from the construction site. According to the tenant, "taxis, cars and moving trucks can no longer pull up to the front of the building…. [and] traffic [has been] diverted to a small lane next to this structure, creating unsafe conditions for drivers and pedestrians." It's a political question, explains Kaysen, adding that the tenant could contact the Department of Transportation (DOT), or better yet the local community board or elected officials. But the bottom line is that, very likely, "the condo is an as-of-right development, which means that it was not subject to a public review process where the community would have had the opportunity to weigh in on practical matters like where to house fire trucks. This might explain why the structure seemingly rose out of thin air." It's something for existing co-ops and condos to keep in mind, especially since next time, one of those new condos — and any accompanying ugly structures — might be right outside their doors rather than outside a rental building.

Remember the iPad on steroids? It's just one of the new tools in a technological arsenal that real estate developers are using to sell, sell, sell in the city. The beautiful thing about technology is that it's forever evolving. Just check out what Extell Development Company is using to sell condos in the 219-unit One Riverside Park. Holograms. They call it innovative. We call it pretty darn cool. According to The New York Times article, "the hologram presentation includes an overview of the waterfront neighborhood, a trip inside the new complex, now 85 percent sold with remaining units ranging from $3.6 to $25 million, and a dazzling display of its amenities." You can tell someone how amazing a unit is, not to mention all the awesome amenities, but it's always better to show them. In a city where it's always best to walk your talk, that just makes good sense.

The estate of Florence Weinbaum had to sell Weinbaum's co-op apartment at 260 West End Avenue. It contracted with a third party and, as is typical in co-ops, the sale was conditioned on the board's approval. The board waited until after the estate and the unit's purchaser had signed the contract to promulgate house rules directly addressed to this unit and the buyer refused to close. 

In 1947, the unit — which was located on the "mezzanine" level and accessibly via the lobby — was leased to Weinbaum's father, a doctor, as a professional office. When the building converted to cooperative ownership in 1980, Dr. and Mrs. Weinbaum purchased the shares and he continued to use the unit as his medical office until his retirement in 1981.

Community Board 7 last week approved a proposal to convert a historic church at 361 Central Park West into condos after architects agreed to revise their original design. According to DNAinfo, Li Saltzman Architects and GKV Architects have removed dozens of the 70 windows they planned to add after board members argued it made the 100-year-old landmarked Crenshaw Christian Center East look like it had been "shot out [with] a machine gun." Whoa. Replacing the small windows will be "three long windows spanning nearly the entire height of the building that they described as 'ribbons' of glass," reported DNAinfo. Despite getting the board's blessing, however, it seems the old adage that you can't please all the people all of the time rings true here. Not surprisingly, neighboring residents who largely oppose the project still hate it. You can't really blame them, either. The architects plan on getting rid of the church's stained-glass windows. Sadly, however, it comes down to an ultimatum: Lose the windows, or risk losing the whole building. The condo conversion project goes before the Landmarks Preservation Commission today for review.

Not long ago, the rat situation at an Upper West Side condominium got so bad residents who would return home late at night would walk in the middle of the street. According to one of the condo's board members, rats would be scurrying back and forth from the tree wells and running around people's ankles.

The board member, who asked to remain anonymous because of the stigma associated with rats, was involved in several local community groups. Therefore, she knew about the city's Rodent Academy program — or Rat Academy, as it is often called. Started in 2009, the program offers a half-day course on how to identify rat infestations and what to do about them.

If there were ever a doubt about the appropriateness of withholding building amenities from condominium owners in arrears, a recent court decision in New York City lays it to rest — and lays out what a condo board did right in the way it pursued one of the very few pieces of leverage available to compel recalcitrant unit-owners.

It's difficult to say if this is a first, but with no precedent cited other than the Business Judgment Rule, the Oct. 2 decision in The Columbia Condominium v. Ullah may well be a landmark confirming the legality of a common practice.

It looks like construction is set to begin in early 2015 in an empty parking lot on West 97th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues — what will be home to the Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL), a 20-story nursing home. Years of pushback from residents of Park West Village, a condominium complex made up of seven buildings between 97th and 100th streets, with backing from a nearby school and elected officials, resulted in disappointment late last week, when the New York State Department of Health gave the nursing home the green light it's been waiting for. There are caveats, reports DNAInfo, which include putting up a temporary sound barrier, limiting noisy construction during yearly state testing and taking measures to ensure lead-laden dust doesn't spread to the surrounding area. The JHL says that's more than enough to assuage everyone's concerns. Park West Village residents and P.S. 163 parents say it's not enough. And City Councilman Mark Levine says it's not over. "Our fight continues in the legal and legislative arena to protect the community from this harmful project," he told DNAInfo.

In a court decision that may shine a light of hope on condo boards — which unlike co-op boards have a huge lack of options when apartments go into arrears or foreclosure — a judge ruled last week there are instances where a board may legitimately exercise "self help" and lock a delinquent owner out of his or her apartment. As the New York Law Journal reports, the family in Penaflorida v. The Copely Condominium and Club was not entitled to return to its foreclosed-on apartment in the Upper West Side's Lincoln Square neighborhood since, the judge wrote, "return would be futile and ... would only forestall the inevitable eviction." As well, none of the immediate family members were living there — a niece was staying — and the owners admitted they were holding onto the place solely to drag out a bankruptcy auction.

The foreclosure had occurred in 2009 and the owners by now owed $100,000 in arrears and $200,000 in interest, the Law Journal said. This is an example, the board's attorney, Adam Leitman Bailey, told the paper, of foreclosed condo owners trying to "game the system" and "live for free" in the apartments. Maybe this ruling is a first step into having that stop.

1... 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 ... 25

Ask the Experts

learn more

Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?