New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



When the 37-story Trump Tower at City Center condominium in White Plains was built in 2006, developer Louis Cappelli estimated that the building's annual energy bill would be $700,000. Instead, the first year's costs were double that. Condo board members were shocked: This brand-new luxury tower was an energy hog. In January 2007, the board hired Larry Gomez of Trump Management to manage their property. The first order of business: Cut the energy bill down to size. But with board members wary and residents reluctant to make changes, was the battle doomed from the start?

Recently, several boards of directors of cooperative corporations that we represent have received petitions from shareholders to call special meetings. The purpose of these was to discuss and, in some instances, vote to overturn, decisions of the board. Some of the issues related to the enactment of assessments, hiring and firing of staff, building repairs and decorative improvements decided by the board. So what is the best way for co-op boards (and, likewise, boards of  condominium associations) to encourage resident involvement without letting them take it too far?

The latest from Albany: mixed signals, missed opportunities, and a hope for future change. Those are all the ingredients that go into the co-op and condo tax abatement stew that has been simmering for so long it’s all but evaporated. The short story is that, for the moment, the tax abatement that 360,000 city taxpayers count on each year is dead. The price of burying it? Some $430 million in additional taxes.

Recent news affecting co-op / condo buyers, sellers, boards and residents. There's no other news more important this week than New York State legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo letting the co-op / condo tax abatement expire. This, in a state where every other form of residential property gets an annual cap on tax increases. But there's a sliver of a silver lining — read the second article below and contact your representatives.

Also this week, New York City condos go on the warpath to collect arrears — read about some of the tactics now becoming commonplace. Plus, what's with all those condo boards acting like co-op boards, requiring hundreds of pages of buyers' financial data? A broker breaks it down. And did you know boards can't stop residents from operating day-care centers in their apartments?

In 1964, Governor Nelson Rockefeller enacted the New York State's Condominium Act, and the rest of the U.S. followed. But since then, the other states and even Puerto Rico have modernized their laws. Twenty-five states even use the Uniform Condominium Act and others the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act, while New York has remained loyal to a law that is inadequate.

Committees are an invaluable tool in condominium associations and cooperative housing corporations, where it can be hard to get enough volunteers sufficiently capable of dedicating the time, attention and skills required to serve on the board. As well, since it's often effective to have a small board, having committees can extend the board's reach, ability and effectiveness. This allows the benefits of a smaller board without sacrificing the distribution of workload that comes with a larger board.

As co-op / condo property managers know, know the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) requires cooperatives and condominium associations to make reasonable accommodations for shareholders, unit-owners or other residents with physical or mental disabilities. Often these requests revolve around assistance animals, a term synonymous with "companion animal," "service animal," "therapy animal," etc.  Accommodating such requests is generally considered "reasonable," under FFHA.

But what happens when the service animal is a "dangerous breed" of dog?


What are the responsibilities of the board?

Co-op board president Michael Kaplan puts it bluntly about the condition of the HVAC system at the Garth Essex, a 346-unit co-op in Eastchester, a town in New York's Westchester County just north of New York City. "The equipment was from the 1960s. It was failing. We were repairing it all the time. To a certain extent, we had even started to reach the limit of what we could do with repairs. We were running on borrowed time."

The solution: the board swapped out the aging dual-fuel boilers for newer models, which lowered their bills through increased efficiency. But they also reduced costs by completely changing the way the building was heated and cooled and provided hot water.

The end result? The co-op reduced its water consumption by 25 percent and its costs by half. Fuel usage has dropped by 53 percent, and maintenance costs to the HVAC system have plunged 40 percent.

Two shareholders began a legal action against one of the co-op boards I represent as an attorney, and against four of its individual directors. They were challenging the cooperative corporation's alleged refusal to approve an alteration to their apartment.

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Ask the Experts

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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