New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, it's co-op shareholders vs. rental tenants at Chelsea's London Terrace over access to a pool. We've also news of a new, retroactive property-tax abatement; the Brighton Beach bathrooms get put on hold; and as Stevie Wonder sang, we're very superstitious, writing's on the wall — just not the wall of the 13th floor. Plus, for boards, co-op taxes are up, and Concourse Village workers are up in arms.

The outcry over developer Extell's greenlight to build a separate entrance for mandated affordable apartments at 40 Riverside Blvd. has reached as high as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "The two-door system is an affront to New Yorkers' belief in fairness and diversity in our city we all live together," said Brewer in the New York Daily News. The Mayor agrees, saying he intends to ban so-called "poor doors" that segregate teachers, nurses, police officers, social workers and others of moderate means from bankers and lawyers — though unfortunately, not until an overall inclusionary-housing law is drafted about a year from now.

Extell's CEO, Gary Barnett, tells the paper he can't intersperse affordable and market-rate apartment and is forced economically to bunch them together. Funny — every other developer of such mixed-income housing seems to be able to do it just fine.

Politicians sounded a hue and cry when they learned developers wanted to install separate entrances — "poor doors" — for residents living in the affordable-housing part of new luxury buildings. But now one developer is getting his way regardless. The New York Post reports that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has approved Extell's plan for such a separate-but-equal entrance at the 33-story condominium at 40 Riverside Blvd. that the company is building on the Upper West Side.

Anything about this reek of 1950s segregation, with income instead of race? Well, as David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers, told The Real Deal last year, “I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters...." Yes, because all those nurses, teachers, police officers, writers and small-business owners are all scum of the Earth, unfit to use the same lobby as lawyers, bankers and, evidently, real-estate company senior vice presidents.

Children being turned away from playrooms, seniors denied use of the gym and developer Extell's infamous "poor door" at 40 Riverside Boulevard: Such refusal of amenities to rent-stabilized and subsidized residents in some high-end co-ops, condos and rental buildings are prompting legislators to seek laws preventing such practices. Ronda Kaysen's eye-opening article in The New York Times reports on several cases, which critics say divides communities and turns average working people, from teachers to entertainers to retirees, into pariahs in their own homes. What do advocates say? According to the head of one development company it's because such people may — may — bring down property values. How exactly a police officer, nurse, social worker or graphic designer brings down property values, nobody is saying.

Shelly Kupper is an agent for change in his building, 304 West 75th Street. The 74-year-old dentist speaks emphatically and proudly about the cooperative, which he says has substantially changed since he first moved in 24 years ago. As president of the seven-member board since 1994, Kupper rules benignly but firmly. The co-op's projects over the years have included redoing the lobby, converting the elevator from manned to automatic and adding a gym, storage lockers and a bike room.

The smokers were outvoted by more than two to one — yet because the vote to ban smoking at The Vaux Condominium didn't reach the required 2/3 supermajority, the tally of 48.85 vs. 23.68 means that less than a quarter of the voting residents have dictated their "right" to a spread carcinogenic smoke throughout a closed environment.

Unit-owner Candice Elliott told The New York Observer that the board failed to pass the ban because "they framed the issue in terms of smoking only" and complained of "an activist board whose members saw themselves as being on the vanguard of this anti-smoking movement." Zeckendorf Towers last year became the largest condo in New York City and possibly the nation to go smoke-free.

The West Side Rag blog has introduced a new series of profiles of Upper West Side doormen. The first one introduces Robert, a 34-year-old Serbian doorman at 333 West End Avenue, who has just become an American citizen. Tessa Abrahams discusses with Robert why he moved to the United States and hears from residents about his relentlessly positive outlook on life.

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the developers of The Apthorp condominium on the Upper West Side.

The Real Deal revealed that the $750,000 suit, which claimed that a descending staircase cut the plaintiff’s unit in half, was tossed when the judge ruled that the agreement was for an 'as is' purchase, and therefore it was up to the buyer to inquire as to the condition of the apartment.

Condo sales are up, price per square foot is up, and someone, somewhere, just sold their unit for a cool $43,000,000. (And yet, somehow, it’s not the most expensive unit per square foot!) 

CityRealty’s quarterly “CityRealty 100 Report” is out, and the numbers are eye-opening. According to the report, the first quarter saw 169 apartments change hands at what the firm has determined are the top 100 condominium buildings. Average price per square foot was $2,272. Compared to the same time frame last year, that price has increased 19.4 percent

Want to ensure a quorum at your next annual meeting? Do a lousy job throughout the year.

"That's the irony," notes attorney Phyllis H. Weisberg, a partner at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. "When everything is running smoothly and everybody's happy, it's harder to get a quorum."

"People come from far and wide if there are contentious issues," agrees longtime co-op board member Grant Varga, of the 57-unit 17 West 67th Street in Manhattan. "But when everything is going smoothly, people say, ‘What's my motivation to go?' So we work hard to convince them to show up." So how do you ensure that your building has the required quorum to make the annual meeting legit?

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