New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

QUEENS

Lobby redesign is a nightmare. Ask any board or managing agent and the story is usually the same: Redoing your lobby is like juggling dynamite. Where aesthetics are involved, you can rarely please everyone and the whole project can explode in your face.

So Maddy Hacken must be a brave woman. Knowing the dangers of redesign, the board president at The Catalina and The Plymouth, a 120-unit twin co-op in Bayside, Queens, not only initiated a redesign, she actually served on the beautification committee. She might as well have put a target on her back.

On a building at the corner of 63rd Drive and 108th Street in Forest Hills, Queens, the co-op board installed a plaque to commemorate the late Soviet émigré writer Sergei Dovlatov, who lived there from 1979 until his death in 1990. And now, reports the Russian art-and-culture website CalvertJournal.com, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has named the nearby intersection Sergei Dovlatov Way — making it, reportedly, the first New York City street named after a Russian writer. Dovlatov fans had spearheaded a petition drive, and getting the co-op board on their side inspired them, they say, "to think bigger." Which just goes to show, you never know how much impact a co-op board vote may have.

It all started with a noise complaint. And then another. And then another.

"We'd had issues in the past with people putting treadmills and other workout equipment in their own apartments," says Fred Warshaw, co-op board treasurer of the Bay Country Owners apartment complex at 23-25 and 23-35 Bell Boulevard in Bayside, Queens. "So this sometimes caused problems with the people below." Similar complaints were heard at its sister cooperative, Bell Owners, which has two buildings at 23-45 and 23-55 Bell Boulevard. 

Barry Klitsberg, co-op board president of the Quality and Ruskin Apartments at 10525 67th Avenue in Queens, New York City, jokingly describes his job as "a kind of purgatory." Raised in the borough, in a Long Island City housing project and then other areas, he says, perhaps not so jokingly, that his favorite expressions are "Don't get mad, get even" and "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." He spoke with Habitat editorial director Tom Soter.

One of the simplest ways for a board to take the pulse of its building is to send out a survey.

That's what boards of Bay Country Owners and Bell Owners, which run the co-op apartment complex at 23-25 and 23-35 Bell Boulevard in Bayside, Queens, did when they were deciding on whether to add a gym. Shareholders were surveyed about their interest in a new exercise facility, and whether they would use it. "We got the results and were pleased to see 80 people said they would join," says Fred Warshaw, board treasurer of the Bay Country Owners. 

The National Cooperative Bank (NCB) has announced it originated $18.6 million in new loans in April, with co-ops in Manhattan accounting for more than 50 percent of the bank’s financing activity in the region, according to Edward Howe III, Managing Director of the NCB New York office. Howe personally arranged the largest loan of the month, a $3.6 million first mortgage and a $750,000 line of credit for a co-op in Forest Hills, Queens. 

The beautiful façades of the Northridge Cooperative Section 3 complex in Jackson Heights, Queens, hid a serious leakage problem — one of the most common deterioration issues that can ruin an apartment-owner's investment and vex the co-op and condo boards having to figure out how to fix it. Here's how a 400-unit, six-building complex did it. And if a place that big could handle it, so can you.

A group in Forest Hills, Queens, wants to honor the late Soviet émigré writer Sergei Dovlatov (pictured) by having a portion of 63rd Drive where he lived named after him. Already, reports the English-language radio program The Voice of Russia, the co-op board of his building has voted to install a commemorative plaque. It's an idea other boards may want to consider — prestige can enhance market value, and famous notables have lived all over New York City.

A 300-unit high-end co-op in Queens recently staged a large hallway renovation. Such aesthetic decisions can often lead to uncivil wars between the residents and the board, but this design scheme went forward without a single shout. 

The reason? The co-op board members conducted a survey.

I believe in transparency. I believe in communication. And I believe in my co-op. 

Rafolin, at 65-15 38th Avenue in Woodside, Queens, is a wonderful place to live. I'm 40 years old and have lived in this six-story, 145-unit property practically my whole life. It is family-oriented. That's why, when I was in grade school, my dad and his four brothers decided to buy units in this building. My mother and a few family members still live here. What's great is you get the best of two worlds: The building is on a large, secluded block, with a lot of greenery and private space, but walk for a few minutes and you come to a transportation hub, with good shopping and great restaurants.

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