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A New Day at the Newport

Written by Paula Chin on October 18, 2016

Flushing

A Queens co-op gets rid of a self-dealing board – and gets out of jail.

For real estate developers, Flushing is coming of age, and in an overcrowded city where condos are rising anywhere you turn, the Queens neighborhood is a potential goldmine. For the community that has lived and thrived there for years, it may be time to worry. Early next month, sales start at Flushing Commons, a mixed-use development that has been in the works for a decade, reports The New York Times. According to the article, "the first phase of the 1.8 million-square-foot project will be finished in 2017, delivering 148 residential condos as well as office condos and retail.

Eventually, the complex of more than five acres will house a total of 600 residential condos, an outdoor plaza, and a new Y.M.C.A. facility. Completion is scheduled for mid-2021." Construction began last year, and has already caused chaos in the already bustling commercial hub: it's isolating small businesses and beginning to drive parking costs up — "prices have jumped to $3 an hour from $1, vexing drivers and merchants."

What will these changes mean for the mom-and-pop shops "selling pork buns, noodle soups and herbal remedies"? It remains to be seen, of course, but jaded New Yorkers who have already witnessed entire neighborhoods disappear to give way to shiny condos and shinier eateries and bars catering to those with lots of cash may not be too optimistic. People are drawn to the charm and character of neighborhoods like Flushing, only to change everything. As prices increase, people have no choice but to close up shop and move out.

So how much will the new residents of Flushing have to shell out for these new condos? Prices start at $650,000 for a one-bedroom with Swedish oak floors, quartz countertops and Italian porcelain tiles, says The Times. And "among the amenities for condo residents: a dog park, a reading room and Zen walking gardens. Two-bedrooms start at $850,000, three-bedrooms at $1.2 million and four-bedrooms at $2.5 million."

Talk about getting saved in the nick of time. The owner of Shirokia Tower, a condo in Flushing, Queens, facing foreclosure, was about to see the building auctioned off. Nearly 100 investors showed up ready to place their bids. All of them went home disappointed, reported the New York Daily News, after "a big time real estate investor… salvage[d] the project." Madison Realty Capital really wants to tap the Flushing market. To that end, it seized its chance, providing a "$14 million mortgage to recapitalize Shirokia Tower, allowing the owner of the property to hang on to it." Things seem to have worked out for this Queens condo, thanks to its "white knight." But buildings can end up in financial difficulties for a variety of reasons, one of them being sponsor defaults — if that's the case, then relying on a so-called white knight might not be the best solution

Changing managers should be as simple as changing dance partners. It can be — but it can also be fraught with problems — if the board isn't on top of the situation. David Fox knows. He is the board president at the 134-unit Linden Towers Cooperative No. 1 in Flushing, Queens. A retired laboratory technologist, he has lived in the building since 1976 and has served on the board for 30 years, the last three as president. The co-op has gone through several management companies over the years. In the 1960s, its management firm was indicted for stealing co-op funds. That company's successor worked well until the founder retired and service began to decline. The next company was based in Yonkers, and the manager was rarely sighted on the Linden Towers property. "We had to do more and more work as a board," Fox says. "It got ridiculous." 

"You can do it. We can help." So goes the motto of a home-improvement chain. And that very ethos applied to Winston Tower, at 143-51 Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, where the condo board of that 135-unit building did its city-mandated energy benchmarking in-house instead of hiring an outside firm.

"The benchmarking software is not as user-friendly as the city claims, but we did it ourselves," says veteran board-member Brook Haberman, who adds that the board had been active in energy saving even before the city unveiled its Greener, Greater Buildings Plan (GGBP) a few years ago.

The condo board at Brook Haberman's building is pretty savvy. At least, that's what David Grumet thinks. Grumet is the director of operations at iAG Energy, a firm that performs energy audits, and he should know. He's dealt with dozens of boards in the last year doing what he did for Haberman's building: tracking down energy failings in accordance with recent laws.

The condo board at Brook Haberman's building is pretty savvy. At least, that's what David Grumet thinks. Grumet is the director of operations at iAG Energy, a firm that performs energy audits, and he should know. He's dealt with dozens of boards in the last year doing what he did for Haberman's building: tracking down energy failings in accordance with recent laws.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. As the year ends, some things don't change. To wit: Two Financial District condo boards and Pace University have filed a lawsuit to keep a city Probation Department center out of the neighborhood; co-op shareholders at Dunham House on the Upper East Side are fighting a retailer who threatens to block their views; and a condo board in Flushing, Queens, is getting sued for its treatment of a Buddhist church. Man, who hates Buddhists? Plus, one of the New York Giants is renting out his condo apartment during Super Bowl week since, let's face it, the Giants have no reason to stick around.

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