New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

WESTCHESTER COUNTY

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.

When the board of a 39-unit Yonkers co-op 293 North Broadway had to pull a job from a shoddy contractor and bring in new blood, the original contractor promptly put a mechanic's lien on the property. The board could have responded with a lawsuit. Instead, it tried arbitration. Did that procedure work? Yes and no.

When the board of a 39-unit Yonkers co-op 293 North Broadway had to pull a job from a shoddy contractor and bring in new blood, the original contractor promptly put a mechanic's lien on the property. The board could have responded with a lawsuit. Instead, it tried arbitration. Did that procedure work? Yes and no.

The board of a 39-unit co-op in Yonkers recently locked horns with its engineer and contractor over a disputed $1.2 million exterior repair job. Loath to spend time and money on a lawsuit, the seven directors opted to pursue mediation and then arbitration. This board's story has some agonizing moments — and some valuable lessons along the way.

The insurance company and the board were soon wrangling over their widely divergent cost estimates, the scope of the work, what was covered under the policy and when the settlement would be delivered. Eager to get the job moving forward, the co-op board announced it was going to begin repairs in July 2009, seven months after the fire, with the money offered by the insurer — but would continue to fight for a larger settlement. Here, a bit of luck worked in the co-op's favor.

It all began on a cold December afternoon in 2008 at The Broadlawn, an elegant Jazz Era compound that houses 121 co-op apartments in White Plains, N.Y. Workers were repairing the slate roof and repointing the brick façade, and, though the contract stipulated that no acetylene torches were to be used on the job, one worker with the subcontractor was using a torch to speed the drying of mortar before the crew knocked off for the weekend. The flame ignited the roof. Soon the blaze was spreading out of control and a dark black cloud was boiling into the cold winter sky.

This is the story of that devastating fire, which wound up testing the residents, educating them and, finally, making their co-op stronger than ever.

The board of directors at the 78-unit Yonkers co-op needed to replace the super. The logical choice was the building's longtime porter, who knew the quirks of the 1920s vintage building and was highly popular with the shareholders. Only trouble was that English was the porter's second language. And he was not very fluent at it, either. 

Sure, your doorman probably isn't gossiping about the people you're dating. And sure, that fellow co-op board member who wants you out isn't looking through security-camera footage to prove you're not cleaning up after your dog. And, surely, you as a parent aren't going to ask your board or management to let you see electronic key-fob data and confirm what time your teenager came home.

Except … what's to stop you?

The co-op board was complaining about the superintendent. "He sends us bills for everything he does," said the treasurer. "He paints the hallways, we get a bill. He repairs the burner, we get a bill. He fixes plumbing in the walls, we get a bill. What are we paying him for? Cleaning up the hallways and common areas?"

I listened carefully to the duties enumerated by my colleague on the board and thought, "That's an awful lot of work to do for the pittance we pay him."

 

In the terrible aftermath of superstorm Sandy, co-op and condo boards and residents found themselves struggling with both immediate needs and longer-term woes. With lobbies, basements and other common areas flooded and in need of repair and reconstruction, with electrical panels destroyed and with buildings not collecting maintenance or common charges from uninhabitable apartments, many boards are understandably overwhelmed. But federal help is available. Through conversations with government agencies and others, Habitat is here to you get through a flood of misinformation.

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