New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

QUEENS

Steve Day is satisfied. He wouldn't have said so just three years ago when the five-person board of his 490-unit Queens co-op faced ever-increasing energy costs. The decades-old windows of the 23-building garden apartment complex, The Estates at Bayside, were deteriorating, the roofs were leaking, and the six heating plants were unreliable. And it was all very costly.

"The windows we had were probably the second set of windows that were in here," says Day, "and we were having quite a few problems with them: they were leaky, they were drafty, and heat was just going right out."

The board decided to take on the problems one at a time, tackling the windows first.

A READER ASKS: I'm on the board of a midsize co-op in Queens. About six months ago, we started getting complaints from residents about one of the couples in the buildings, who have been shareholders for about a decade. The couple had been arguing loudly and it was becoming an issue — although police have never been called about domestic disturbances. Late last week, the wife let us know that she was filing for divorce. Although she was calm at first, she became very upset and told us that her soon-to-be ex-husband was moving out and we were to let the doorman know not to let him in. The rest of the board feels like she said this last part in the heat of the moment, but I think we should take the necessary steps to protect ourselves should this breakup turn nasty. Other than talk to our attorney, what else can we do, if anything at all? 

A co-op shareholder in Jackson Heights, Queens, tells Ronda Kaysen in the latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times that, although he is free to review the minutes from board meetings in the managing agent's office, the board and building's managing agent refuse to let him make a copy of those minutes. Is it true that there is no statutory authority allowing a co-op shareholder to make a photocopy of the documents? It certainly is, explains Kaysen, who adds that in fact, the board could prohibit the shareholder from even reviewing them, "although that scenario is unlikely to actually happen." Not all boards are created equal, Kaysen says. Some boards post minutes on the building's website while others prefer to control the flow of information. "If shareholders can make copies of the minutes, they can just as easily distribute that information to a much wider audience — like the Internet." And you know what they say: once something is on the Internet, it's there forever. 

Marilyn Profita and six other residents of the Meadowlark Gardens cooperative in Fresh Meadows, Queensran for the board in fall 2013, sweeping all seven seats. The group had quite a task ahead of them as they worked to turn things around at the eight-building, 288-unit co-op, which was in deplorable fiscal and physical shape.

Marilyn Profita, a retired teacher, moved into the Meadowlark Gardens cooperative in Fresh Meadows, Queens, in 2000. Since that time, she and the other shareholders have been subject to repeated assessments and maintenance increases — including back-to-back nine percent increases in the past two fiscal years. After getting nowhere with the board and the building's accountant, Profita decided to get legal help. In late 2012, she called Mark Hankin, a veteran real estate lawyer with the firm Hankin & Mazel. Speaking for a group of disgruntled shareholders at the eight-building, 288-unit co-op, Profita told Hankin that she and her group wanted to know what they could do about the co-op's deplorable fiscal and physical condition.

Co-op and condominium managing agents throughout the region continue to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, even as a new storm is predicted for Wednesday, November 7.

Peter Lehr, the director of management at Kaled, reported that Birchwood on the Green, a 334-unit co-op in Oakdale, Suffolk County, on Long Island, was hard hit by the storm: “The power went out and we have to deal with [the building’s] sewage treatment plant. We were scrambling around to get the power up and running, at least to the sewage treatment plant. They got power back in the complex Friday — that’s three or four days without it — and our environmental team has been monitoring the situation because you’ve got to make sure that the [sewage plant] chemicals are balanced right. [If they’re not,] Suffolk County will come in and violate you.”

For example, if a worker is injured while working on the building's façade, he will probably sue his employer, the building he was on, and the managing agent. (With regards to any claim against the employer, the worker must first seek relief from workers' compensation — and that award is eventually deducted from any other judgment.) The problem is that if the contractor's insurance policy is deficient in some way — he told his insurer that he is doing carpentry instead of façade work, for example — the insurer will deny the claim. That can leave the building open to liability, despite an indemnification clause.

Denise Savino-Erichsen, president of the multifamily-building laundry-room company Automatic Industries, has been named this year's Woman-Owned Business Champion by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

"I am honored to receive such recognition by the Queens Chamber," Savino-Erichsen said in a statement, joking that "I must come 'clean': Automatic Industries is a family affair. My father, our CEO and founder, had a great vision and formed a wonderful foundation. We also have a talented and dedicated team that enables us to maintain our success." 

Also honored were Daniel Zausner, chief operating office of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, given the Community Partner Awards; Edward Farrell, president of Resorts World Casino New York City, with the Regional Economic-Impact Award; Kevin Alexander, executive director of the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, with the Not-for-Profit Champion; and Marissa Shorenstein, president of AT&T New York, who was inducted into the Queens Chamber's Hall of Fame.

With an abundance of low-lying, southern-facing roof space, the 930-unit Georgetown Mews co-op complex in Kew Gardens, Queens, has embarked on a massive solar-energy project that eventually will provide 35 percent of its energy needs. And by even the most conservative projections, it will pay off its full cost in under two years.

How did it get the funding to do this? And can you?

No matter how amazing your financing is, the last and — in the long run — the greatest of the financial attractions of a solar-power project doesn't appear in any computation of expenses; instead, it's the power the project will generate. Georgetown Mews, a sprawling, 930-unit co-op in Kew Gardens, Queens, is finally attempting to take control of that power. Its massive project will eventually provide 35 percent of the complex's energy needs and by even the most conservative projections will pay off its full cost in under two years.

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