New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

150 WEST END AVENUE

In the immediacy of the moment during an apartment-house fire, people can panic. Timely information helps prevent panic. And so in the wake of high-profile high-rise fires, the question of how to get crucial fire information to building residents — whether through Internet- or phone-based systems or through what the industry calls "one-way communication" such as public-address systems in hallways or individual apartments — has become the New York City Council's next burning issue.

And unless that issue's addressed quickly, the desire to mandate life-saving communication paradoxically may cost lives.

I'd probably be dead right now. Maybe you, too.

That's because in all the years I've been writing about co-ops and condos, including fire-exit regulations and Fire Dept. inspections, I probably would have headed down the stairs at The Strand. That's what Daniel McClung did during the blaze at that W. 43rd Street condominium on Jan. 5. Knowing only that his building was on fire, he tried to escape from the 32nd floor — and ran headlong into smoke from the 20th that killed him.

But I mean — it's a fire. You're supposed to get out, right?

Co-op and condominium boards have many reasons to lay out a five-year capital-improvement plan. Among other things, it helps you budget, it helps eliminate or lessen assessments, and it makes lenders look more favorably upon your building and its residents' apartments when it comes to refinancing. And for condo associations, Fannie Mae — a.k.a. the Federal National Mortgage Association — requires you have a capital plan or put aside 10 percent of the monthly common charges.

If you prepare for the worst, you're better off in the long run. Except when you're not. A few years ago, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) suggested that every co-op and condo's financial statement contain information about the remaining useful life of — and the replacement cost for — all the building's infrastructure. Makes sense, right? Not to some attorneys and accountants.

Ask the Experts

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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

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