New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

NEW YORK STATE

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.

Insurance for damage caused by a "plumbing system" is only covered if the overflow originated on your own co-op or condo's property, but not if the backup originated from a municipal water system or other offsite source, according to a new court decision — highlighting the need for boards and their management to ensure that insurance-policy terminology is well-defined and covers what the board believes to be covered.

New York City commuters on the Hudson Line have been taking train delays in stride this month after a heavy-rain mudslide from the Hudson Court co-op at 679 Warburton Avenue in Yonkers rained concrete, rock and soil over a retaining wall onto railroad tracks, mucking up passage between the Glenwood and Greystone stations. The Lower Hudson Valley paper The Journal News reported that the co-op board issued a statement thanking all the public-sector workers who helped clear the debris. Metro-North will bill the co-op, which presumably has insurance.

The mortgage process in New York can occasionally be described with such cheerful words as “dire” or “impossible.” However, Brick Underground has the scoop on a state agency that lets first-time homebuyers get a loan with as little as 3 percent down, provided you make less than $98,000 a year and pay under $665,000 for the property.

State Senator Tony Avella (D-Bayside) officially announced last week the inclusion of a tax-relief program for small homeowners, renters and co-op and condo owners in this year's New York State budget. After the original proposal entailed tax relief solely for renters, Avella introduced legislation to include condominiums and cooperative owners and other homeowners.

Unit-owners were vocal about the loan. "Some didn't want the debt, period," recalls Patrick Niland, president of First Funding of New York, the mortgage broker for the transaction. "There were a series of very intense meetings. At one, there was an exchange that almost came to blows."

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