New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



The first signs were little things. Storefronts with wood instead of glass in their picture windows. Then the signs became more pronounced: trees upended, their roots exposed like some kind of garish sculpture; buildings with huge gashes in their façades; and a series of strange-looking poles on the beach that had, once upon a time, been supports for the boardwalk, now blown away by superstorm Sandy.

Sometimes a superintendent's office is just a superintendent's office. And other times, a superintendent's office is a storage room that doesn't belong to the condominium, except one document says it does and another document says it doesn't. This is why we have document shredders. Just kidding. But it is why we have courtrooms — which is where a Long Island City, Queens, condo board and the building's sponsor recently met to have the case of the conflicting official papers sorted out. Also, to determine who gets custody of the room's toilet, which makes it all the more a shame this isn't happening in Flushing.

Geraldine Schaedler, who says she "likes to be of service," has been sitting on the seven-person board of Country Neck Estates, in the Little Neck section of Queens since, 1991, the last four years as president. "People do need a purpose in life," says Schaedler, who is retired, "and this does keep me active. It keeps me in touch with a lot of people here."


The sprawling, 60-acre Georgetown Mews co-op in Kew Gardens, Queens, spans a full four-block lot and has six bus stops and 930 garden apartments. Because of its ample roof space, the co-op may soon be able to install a 1,026kW solar-power system spread out over 32 separate buildings. The system will produce more than 35 percent of all the electricity consumed by this middle-class community. The price tag: $3.5 million. However, a load of incentives and a credit from Con Edison will shave the price down to a modest $458,000.

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, 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. 

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