New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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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.

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?

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.

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