New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, a New York City co-op board that refuses to recognize Hanukkah? That'd be mashugana if it weren't so disturbing. Plus, another high-rise hooker, recovering from superstorm Sandy, a co-op flood wall in Yonkers and city inspectors have become unglued in Co-op City. And for co-op and condo boards that want good lobby art but can't afford it, two boards have creative solutions.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, The Beresford, where Jerry Seinfeld lives, goes after a sidewalk hot dog vendor. Hey, don't let the fact that the city and the police both say he's legal — you just keep on fighting the good fight against nitrates! The FHA is relaxing condominium-certification rules, making it easier to get mortgages. And just in time: New York City condo prices are jumping. Meanwhile, for co-op / condo boards, there's a new resource for tree guards, and an old lesson for Law & Order fans: Don't mess with Lt. Van Buren!

The River Arts cooperative in Manhattan's Washington Heights has saved $15,000 a year in electricity costs since installing rooftop solar panels two years ago — an installation  partly funded by government incentives. River Arts financed the $418,000 project with a federal tax credit, a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and a city property tax abatement. In all, the credits and grants reduced their final bill to $34,560. Initially, the board estimated it would take eight to ten years to pay back the investment. Instead, it took only three.

Nevertheless, River Arts' costs have gone up by 15 percent because of rising property taxes and skyrocketing fuel costs. Property taxes cost the complex $1 million in 2012, up from $300,000 in 2005. In 2015, when the city phases out No. 6 oil, the co-op will have to use a cleaner, but costlier, fuel.

The co-op has taken many steps to lower costs. When it replaced the lighting in the communal areas with energy-efficient fixtures, it took advantage of a $15,000 NYSERDA grant that brought the price down from $51,000 to $36,000. It took the co-op two years to pay.

... more on tax-fairness legislation introduced in Albany; whether no-smoking buildings affects apartment prices; a lobby renovation done right; and The Sheffield pools its resources. And for co-op and condo boards, an expert answer on who's responsible with bathtubs leak.

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