HABITAT

BAYSIDE

Ways to shake up board inertia, and reasons why some buildings have higher monthly charges than others.

Restoring the Luster to “the Jewel of Bayside”

Written by Paula Chin on March 03, 2017

Bayside

An infusion of young blood and energy helps a Queens co-op make a turnaround.

Bell Park Gardens Gets an Energy Transfusion

Written by Paula Chin on February 10, 2017

Bayside

New blood overcomes inertia of entrenched Queens co-op board.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

Ronald Kaye moved into the sprawling, campus-like Windsor Oaks apartment complex in Bayside, Queens, in the 1960s. Back then, the garden apartments in 53 two-story brick buildings sprinkled across 40 acres were rentals. Windsor Oaks went co-op in the 1980s, and Kaye, an accountant, eventually became a shareholder, then a board member. Today, he's board president. When he joined the board in the 1990s, it had already established minimum sale prices as a way of protecting the value of all shares, a controversial practice known as "floor pricing." But as the property aged, disparities arose. How did this board find something of a fair solution?

In 2008, a worker at the Americana co-op in Queens discovered oil in a basement tunnel. Heating oil was leaking from the property's 25,000-gallon underground storage tank, seeping into the soil and threatening to spill into neighboring Little Neck Bay. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) began digging trenches into the courtyard and tearing up the concrete parking lot to see how far the oil had spread.

Cleaning up the mess cost the co-op a whopping $400,000 —  but if the oil had contaminated the bay, the fines would have been crippling. The crisis prompted the board to move away from heating oil and replace the two lumbering, outmoded and inefficient boilers installed when the co-op — a 16-story tower and a block of townhouses — was built in 1968.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. New York City Controller John Liu wants to hear from co-ops, condos and others who suspect the Department of Finance overvalued your building for tax purposes. Plus, a Queens co-op is putting up signs to try to prevent people parking legally on a public street, the Attorney General gives developers an extra six months to digitize their offering plans, and a co-op board goes after a widow and widower. And speaking of boards, a lawyer tells how to collect arrears by cutting off amenities.

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