New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Under the leadership of board president George McGrath, the posh co-op called Forest Hills South Owners dodged a shady property manager. But that didn't change the fact that it faced major capital investments. Roofs and aging elevators needed to be replaced in all seven buildings. In addition, the board recognized that evolving dynamics in New York's real estate market meant general improvements were required to keep the curb appeal of its buildings, so the co-op added an indoor gym for residents. All of that costs money. The co-op was in fairly good financial shape but they wanted to get into better financial shape.

George McGrath, board president of the posh co-op called Forest Hills South Owners, says his board has maintained a "trust but verify" policy for many years. That legacy includes a simple but effective list of processes when dealing with building finances and management companies.

When the cops finally came for Michael Richter, the board members of one Queens co-op knew they had done the right thing. Richter, owner of Charter Management, had acted as managing agent for Forest Hills South Owners, a 605-unit co-op spread across seven buildings. They fired him.

On July 13, 2010, police arrested Richter and charged him with five counts of second-degree grand larceny and five counts of first-degree falsification of business records. Richter was also charged with embezzling almost $1 million in tenant maintenance fees throughout a six-year period from five co-op buildings in Jamaica, Forest Hills, Rego Park, and Elmhurst.

Cashing in on History: Tax Breaks for Co-ops

Written by Tom Soter on September 15, 2015

Queens

 

A touch of history can pay off in a big way.

Take Dunolly Gardens. The 360-unit Queens complex earned thousands of dollars in tax credits because the property is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the official federal list of historically significant districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects.

For co-op and condo boards, historic designations have often brought little beyond the honor of being recognized (usually a plaque). Owners of private property listed in the National Register are free to maintain, manage, or dispose of their property as they choose, provided that no federal money has been spent on restoration. 

 

It's no news that the city can be tough on its many residents, but things are about to get much tougher for thousands of properties — co-ops and condos, included. According to The Real Deal, the city has filed "in rem" actions against not just apartment owners but also building owners in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. It's a move that could spell foreclosure for owners who owe taxes. There's still a chance to pay up or set up installment agreements. "The deadlines are September 22 in Manhattan, September 29 in the Bronx, October 6 in Brooklyn and October 13 in Queens," according to the article. And if they miss the deadline, those affected will still have 20 more days from their respective deadlines "to file answers in court." Gulp! 

How getting a two-in-one contractor made a difference in a window replacement project in Queens.

The Forest Hills Chateau is not really a chateau nor is it actually in Forest Hills, but that hasn't stopped purchasers from buying into the attractive 189-unit property, built in the 1960s. The redbrick façade is clean and the building is on a tree-lined street with easy access to Manhattan, and reasonable sales prices (two recent sales were for $142,000 and $127,000).

Oh yes, and they have new windows.

A major job on your building's elevators will have its — pardon the pun — ups and downs. But how do you take the sting out of it? One co-op says: plan ahead, pay for speed, communicate, and think creatively.

When it was time to tackle a major repair and replacement job on the 13 elevators spread throughout seven six-story buildings, the board at Forest Hills South Owners, a 604-unit co-op in Queens, knew it would be disruptive to residents.

"We had to replace the motors [and] cabling [and] install a state-of-the-art computer control system, and [add] all-new cabs and doors on each one," says George McGrath, president of the board. "We have a very diverse community, from families with young children to single-person households to senior citizens. We have a lot of different people, but all of them are clearly used to the conveniences of having an elevator available at all times."

So what to do?

If you thought Manhattan was the only borough looking good in the second quarter, think again. Late this week, Douglas Elliman released its Q2 report showing Brooklyn and Queens sales figures and they aren't too shabby, either. According to the report, Brooklyn housing prices continued to break records in 2015, including the average sales price for the borough and for brownstones. Rising prices pulled more inventory onto the market, yet supply remained below long-term averages. Douglas Elliman anticipates a fast-paced market to carry on into the fall. Okay, so maybe Brooklyn's figures aren't much of a surprise, but what about Queens? Well, it looks like housing prices there increased, pushing condos to a new record. Median sales prices for condos in Long Island City, for example, soared 29 percent to $998,000. That's good news for these guys. If you're a buyer, though, the news is not so good. The report shows that faster marketing times and less negotiability made it a tougher market for would-be purchasers to navigate. Based on the current market, Douglas Elliman expects similar conditions in the coming quarters.

Take a look at the Queens report (click to enlarge):

Loud house parties, heated arguments between neighbors: these are the issues that co-op boards typically field. Boards are charged with investigating such matters that affect the building and its residents and can issue fines or take away privileges, like access to amenities, for example. But some matters are far more serious for a board to handle. Just as it's important for boards to know when to take charge, it's vital for boards to know when to step back and let the authorities do what they have to do. Take the Breezy Point Cooperative, for example, whose board wanted to conduct its own investigation into a fatal car crash last month. DNAinfo reports that law enforcement officials have asked the co-op board to hold off and let them handle the police work. The crash, which took place May 31 crash on Rockaway Point Boulevard, "left 26-year-old Thomas Rorke dead and another man injured." A. J Smith, the co-ops chairman, conceded that issuing "somebody a fine for their behavior in the co-op is one thing, [but handling] a criminal investigation [is] bigger than [them]." So what does the co-op have to do with the car crash? Smith told DNAinfo that, "the moments before the crash were captured on surveillance video by one of the co-op's cameras overlooking the shopping center parking lot — and a copy of the footage was turned over to police by co-op security immediately following the crash." Smith and the co-op's security detail reportedly watched a copy of the video before turning it over to police. According to the article, a spokesman with the Queens District Attorney's office, Kevin Ryan, "confirmed that a board member called the person in charge of the investigation and 'requested information and evidence regarding the crash.'" That request was denied, Ryan confirmed, because it is, obviously, an active "NYPD/Queens D.A. investigation." No arrests have been made.

Last week, we presented the continuing saga at Sherwood Village, a Queens co-op where a board found itself evenly split among eight directors. We left off with one half of the board, led by Jonas Winograd, suddenly finding itself in the advantage: one of the board directors who'd resigned took back her resignation, siding with Winograd and his supporters. With a five-to-four majority, this group declared Winograd the new president, replacing Olga Desrosiers. But Olga Desrosiers did not go quietly. 

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