New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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UPPER WEST SIDE

As a rule, co-op and condo boards achieve fiscal security through conservative strategies and long-range planning. But occasionally a dash of creativity can help.

That has been the experience of the co-op at 90 Riverside Drive, which enjoys an enviable financial profile with low maintenance and solid capital reserves. The shareholders have never been hit with an assessment. But as the co-op board got ready to refinance the mortgage, a round of mandatory Local Law 11 repairs came due in the summer of 2012, a year before the board's latest 10-year mortgage expired. Once the LL11 work began, unanticipated repairs and expenses arose. By the following summer, with the mortgage about to expire, some sort of interim backup financing became crucial for the co-op to cover the unanticipated bills.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, one of the world's richest condominiums has a big, circular driveway it won't let limo drivers use. Why should it? The NYPD looks the other way as a half-dozen or more limos idle daily in a no-parking zone, spewing fumes to other, less connected buildings. Very nice, 15 Central Park West. Meanwhile, rent-controlled seniors in a co-op are forced to evict their son, and a co-op board president admits that people were ahead of him in line when he took a four-bedroom apartment at the affordable-housing East Midtown Plaza. He doesn't have six people in his family like City rules say, but so what? He's just practicing to be the kind of people who live in 15 Central Park West.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a 63-year-old woman in a Fifth Avenue co-op has had the same Maytag washer in her apartment for 20 years with permission and without trouble. Now the co-op board won't approve a replacement unless it's one of three hoity-toity brands. Well, lah-de-dah ... Maytag's not good enough for 'em? Let's go to court! And court may be where Trump Village West board president Igor Oberman might wind up, since a New York City Department of Investigation report accuses him of less-than-ethical things. Plus, Co-op City has an asbestos problem. Or does it?

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week: Remember that deaf grandfather a couple of weeks ago in Battery Park City, where the condo board disapproved a service dog? Yeah, that dog died, but the man has another one and the board's not pursuing eviction. However, the homeowner is still pursuing an anti-discrimination lawsuit. In better news for boards, the U.S. Senate is delaying an increase in the cost of mandatory flood insurance — and speaking of which, some New York City property managers are encouraging serious disaster-prep at their buildings. Plus, it's the latest amenity: personal shoppers! Which they still don't have at Billy Joel's former co-op, now up for sale.

Michele Kleier, president of Kleier Residential and a frequent presence on the HGTV reality show Selling New York, is trying to sell Apartment 7A at 1125 Park Avenue. She describes the unit in this prewar co-op as "gracious" and "elegant," and the luxury property itself as having great amenities and lovely neighbors. She should know. She's lived in the building for 32 years, part of a phenomenon known as "resident brokers."

Resident brokers such as Kleier can be a blessing: Because the building they represent is also their home, they know it well and understand the quirks of the condo or co-op board, and thus are more likely to deliver buyers everyone will love. They have been selling apartments for a long time, frequently with few problems. Your building may have someone like this, who has become the "go-to" salesperson for residents.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, we learn that property taxes are going up. That's news? It is when the jump will be 5.5 percent for co-ops and 7.4 percent for condos (per the New York Post) or 7.5 percent for co-ops and 9.6 percent for condos (per The Wall Street Journal) — as opposed to just 3.8 percent for owners of single-family homes! Wait, don't single-family homes already get their assessed values capped at 2 percent each year, while there's no cap on how high co-op and condo valuations can rise? Plus: We've board members who somehow couldn't predict the headline "Deaf Grandfather Fights Condo Board to Keep Service Dog." And isn't all this is exactly the kind of stuff a new co-op / condo social-media site will let apartment-owners talk about amongst themselves?

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, the battle over emotional-support dogs gets even more emotional at East River House, as the feds get into the act. Elsewhere, condo and co-op boards might want to partake of a new program teaching doormen to recognize and report elder abuse. And some in City Council push for property-tax rebates. Plus, co-ops try to more like condos and vice-versa, a new affordable housing program will fill a long-empty condominium in The Bronx's Mount Hope neighborhood, and Ronan Farrow (pictured) may be your new Upper West Side neighbor.

Are New York City elevator inspectors being arbitrary in finding violations, or is something even more troublesome going on?

"My super will say, 'The [elevator]inspector was here today,' and we go through the process with our service company to get costs on fixing the violations and deciding how to do this most cost-effectively," says Grant Varga, a longtime board member at the 13-story prewar co-op 12 West 67th Street, near Central Park. "Then, a couple of months later, a different inspector will come here and we get more violations. Why didn't the first inspector catch what the second one called violations?" he asks.

Veteran managing agent Gerard J. Picaso, president of Gerard J.Picaso Inc., who is unaffiliated with Varga's building, has had the same experience. "You do the work, and then another inspector says, 'Here's a bunch of other stuff that's wrong.' You go, 'Wait a minute. We just fixed a bunch of things.' But another guy looks at it from a different angle and you're back to doing more work."

Eleanor Selling, an anthropologist by training and former trade-desk manager at J.P. Morgan Chase, has been part of the renovation committee at 5 Riverside Drive in Manhattan since 2011. The former board president recently sat down with Habitat Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Carol J. Ott, to discuss leadership qualities and lessons learned on the job.

Homeowners rose in tax revolt again in 2012, yet politicians still failed to act to solve inequities hurting co-ops and condominiums. A board may have helped drive a resident to suicide. No-smoking rules, digitized offering plans and automated water-meter readers all made the news. And good boards and bad have their say and their day in some of the year's most interesting utterances.

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