New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

WESTCHESTER COUNTY

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.

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?

 

For the middle-class cooperative in White Plains, N.Y., the complaint started with bugs. When several shareholders called the super to complain about cockroaches in their usually well-maintained building, he called an exterminator — and when the two entered the apartment of an elderly shareholder, they realized they had a bigger problem on their hands: She had accumulated masses of garbage and seemed unable or unwilling to rid herself of the debris. At that point, it becomes a building-wide issue, and the board's responsibility to correct.

Eric Ackerman, board president of a 192-unit co-op in Mamaroneck in Westchester County, recalls the incident clearly. A tenant-shareholder approached him in the elevator and asked: "Where was all that smoke coming from the day before yesterday?"

"Smoke?" Ackerman replied. It was the first he had heard about it. 

Puzzled, he called the property manager.

It is almost a mantra with Fred Rudd, the president of Rudd Realty. "You must have a balanced budget," he says firmly, noting that many co-op boards and condo associations make the mistake of trying to balance the budget by raiding the reserves. "Because of that, when it comes to a rainy day, they don't have adequate funds to deal with the problems as they arise."

... a Brooklyn co-op ponders the cost of repairs now that its building has been landmarked and a buyer gets blindsided by a seller not honoring a deal — wait till you read why. And a real-estate attorney explains how co-op boards may just have saved New York City real estate.

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.

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