New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Leaks and the LPC: Fixing a Landmarked Facade

Written by Tom Soter on January 20, 2016

Jackson Heights

The Monroe was leaking. It was frequent. It was irritating. And it had to stop.

The six-story, 82-unit cooperative at 35-21 79th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, had been built in 1947 and had seen better days. The building had a number of capital problems that needed fixing - the elevators were constantly breaking down, the stucco on the exterior facade was cracking, and the roof was leaking. The Monroe sits in a landmarked neighborhood, which meant the board needed to get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) before it could proceed with work.

When a woman whom we will call Jane Smith moved into Donner Gardens, a 270-unit co-op in Jackson Heights, Queens, in 2001, she was dismayed to learn that the co-op's sponsor, Muss Development, still owned nearly half of the shares some 15 years after the five-building property's conversion from a rental to a co-op. "When I got here, they hadn't been living up to their end of the agreement — which was to sell units," says Smith, a school administrator in the South Bronx, who got elected to the co-op's board of directors in 2007. "We ended up taking legal action against the sponsor, and they told us they were thinking about selling all of their units."

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. 

Pamela DeLorme, the principal in Delkap Management, has learned how to juggle personalities in the 28 years her firm has been managing the Northridge Cooperatives, a six-building, 400-unit complex built in Jackson Heights, Queens, in 1948. The property — like the neighborhood, a "cultural melting pot," according to DeLorme — has transformed from a mostly Orthodox Jewish enclave to one that features a mix of cultures and age groups. The neighborhood has always been attractive to families because of its easy access to stores, supermarkets, restaurants, religious venues and schools.

The beautiful façades of the Northridge Cooperative Section 3 complex in Jackson Heights, Queens, hid a serious leakage problem — one of the most common deterioration issues that can ruin an apartment-owner's investment and vex the co-op and condo boards having to figure out how to fix it. Here's how a 400-unit, six-building complex did it. And if a place that big could handle it, so can you.

Storage space is worth its weight in, well, you know the rest. As owners try to store clutter rather than live in it, buildings like 33-15 81st Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, are looking to get storage lockers and save dough as best they can. That’s what the board of this 272-unit, five-building hi-rise complex did when it had bins installed between June 28 and July 5, 2011.

Promoting staff based on how popular someone is with the residents, rather than on strictly professional criteria and experience, is an invitation to problems — and there could be no greater example than the experience of one co-op board in Freeport, Long Island, when a staffer's popularity allowed him to buy two apartments and eventually win election to the five-member board, where he and two cronies gained control of the building.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. This week, are the primarily Polish residents of The South Star condominium prejudiced against the Russian lady, or do they just not like her illegal hoteling? Plus, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Hauppauge) talks HUD money for superstorm-Sandy repair grants, the CityRealty website revamps and Chelsea Clinton buys a condo, in neither Chelsea nor Clinton. And for condo and co-op boards, we've got noise-and-nuisance fights on the Lower East Side and in Tribeca.

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