New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

NEW YORK STATE

Crest Manor is a seven-story, 160-unit co-op at 377 North Broadway, in Yonkers, N.Y. The 35-year-old property has been dealing with crumbling infrastructure for years, according to longtime managing agent Darek Chrzanowski of Stillman Property Management, who says that the time for stopgap repairs had passed. The building needs to replace its balconies, refurbish the swimming pool and fix the two-level parking garage. Budgeted for $2.5 million, the projects are being funded by a refinancing of the co-op's underlying mortgage.

As the Sept. 30 union contract deadline approaches for co-op, condo and other residential-building service workers in New York State's Hudson Valley region, members of SEIU Local 32BJ Hudson Valley will march today with elected officials and the community in of the 1,400 men and women who serve what the union estimates as 100,000 area residents. The march assembles at 5 p.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Church at 5 Strathmore Road in Scarsdale, N.Y., and the march will be on Garth Road in that town.

Rivercrest, a six-story, 95-unit cooperative perched beside the Hudson River in Nyack, N.Y., proved to be prophetically named when superstorm Sandy unleashed its fury in October 2012. The river crested its banks, pouring water into the co-op's lobby and its below-grade community room and boiler and laundry rooms. The wooden deck around the swimming pool was rudely swept away.

But for the co-op board and shareholders, the bad news was just beginning. Since the building is located in a flood plain, it was unable to purchase flood insurance from any commercial carrier. And while it was able to buy a federally backed flood-insurance policy, as mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the maximum coverage was just $250,000.

Selling your super's onsite co-op or condo apartment to shore up your building's finances ... good idea or not? Let's get the answer out of the way, since it's the reasons that are the most interesting and informative: No. And while, of course, there may be circumstances where this would work, they're rarities. Why? Because, as BrickUnderground.com writes in its latest "Ask the Experts" column, there are union issues, sales / renovation cost issues and even New York City red-tape issues. Also New York State issues, since co-op share allocation can come in. Also a tax issue and ... well, why not read it and get the details for yourself?

One of the nation's highest-grossing real-estate brokers, Creig Northrop Team, which is affiliated with the Long & Foster Companies brokerage, has been receiving kickbacks from the Lakeview Title Company, according to a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, The Real Deal reports. The suit alleges that Creig Northrup received $1.3 million between 2001 and 2014 to steer unwary buyers to Lakeview. Additionally, it charges that  under an “employment arrangement” that required little or no work, executive Carla Northrop was paid half of the title insurance premiums charged to home buyers referred by Northrop. The defendants have yet to answer the complaint. And while these companies operate in Maryland, this is a warning to buyers everywhere that, as the article notes, "Under federal law you are free to shop for title and other services."

Despite New York State's property-tax inequities being widely acknowledged, both Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City Mayor Bil de Blasio have moved to dismiss a class-action lawsuit that contends single-family homeowners get preferential treatment over both renters and co-op and condo owners. CapitalNewYork.com reports that according to the Citizens Budget Commission, the owners of one-, two- and three-family homes paid 15 percent of the city's property taxes in fiscal year 2014, though they comprised 46 percent of the city's real-estate value. The lawsuit, the website noted, found that the landlord's tax burden for an $800-a-month studio apartment in The Bronx is $2,880 — close to what de Blasio pays in taxes on a million-dollar Park Slope townhouse. CapitalNewYork.com posted Schneiderman's filing here and de Blasio's filing here.

A sad fact of life is that building staff can become disabled over the course of their jobs. But a happy fact is that many still can perform their jobs: A doorman who needs a cane or whose vision doesn't allow him to drive can still work as a doorman; a porter with learning disabilities can still vacuum the hallways and take out garbage; a hearing-impaired super can wear a hearing aid and do the job just fine. 

The real issue for boards and building managers is when long-term disabilities genuinely affect an employee's ability to perform his or her duties adequately. The leading reasons, says the Council for Disability Awareness (CDA), are musculoskeletal disease, cancer, injuries and mental illness. When that happens, what do you do? Throw them out with the trash and get a newer, younger model?

John Bonito has a particular fondness for 209 Garth Road in Scarsdale. Like a first love, that address is tied into his early years as a property manager. No wonder: Although he had lived there in the 1970s, the 99-unit, Tudor-style building, call Thornycroft, became something else in 1981. It was his first co-op client.

"Garth Road was an area with a lot of older buildings that were rent-controlled," he recalls. "You could see it was deteriorating."

Determining what your co-op or condo's staff can and can't say on Facebook, Twitter and other social media can be a minefield, with workers fired or disciplined for presumably caustic comments turning to the National Labor Relations Board for help. Habitat has covered the thorny issue ("Can You Fire a Staff Member for Ragging You on Facebook? Yes. No. Maybe.") and now attorney Stephen W. Lyman, writing at Lexology.com, says an NLRB Administrative Law Judge has given approval to one employer's written policy, published there for your perusal. The full NLRB hasn't given formal approval yet, but this seems like a good model to start with in crafting your own.

Solar energy is poised to grow New York State in a big way, thanks to planned new legislation extending property-tax breaks for installing power-generating solar panels. The bill has been passed by both the Senate and the Assembly and awaits only Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's signature.

The bill extends to 2017 the tax-abatement program built into the existing solar-incentive program, which helps residential buildings, including include co-ops condos, offset the high cost of installing solar panels.

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