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To Hire or Not to Hire (building staff, after hours, that is)

Many building managers and boards of directors hire their building staff to perform work in the building and on their building’s grounds after hours.  And why not?  The workers are known to the management, and they are often seeking opportunities for additional income.

It sounds like a win-win situation.

But wait! There may be serious issues and entanglements that should foreshadow hiring building staff beyond their normal, contractual work hours.

A recently published article in Habitat magazine spells out some of the problems.  Read the article here.


Local Law 33

Starting in 2020, Local Law 33 will require owners of all buildings over 25,000 square feet to display their Energy Efficiency Grade at public entrances. Grades will range from A-F and will be based on your buildings’ annual ENERGY STAR® scores calculated from annual benchmarked energy use.

Your 2020 grade will be based on the building’s performance in 2019 so the time to make improvements may be right now! Efficiency Advisors from the NYC Retrofit Accelerator program are available to work with you to identify your options, access incentives to lower your costs, and connect you to qualified contractors to do the work.  Simple improvements to your existing heating system and lighting can boost your scores and save you money.

The full text of Local Law 33 can be found here.

Retrofit Accelerator advisors can be reached at NYC.gov/RetrofitAccelerator or by telephone at 212.656.9202.


The Question of Smoking in Co-ops and Condos

The Question of Smoking in Co-ops and Condos

By Stephen J. Budihas

With the availability of incontrovertible proof as to the cause and effect of smoking on one’s health; and further on the impact of second-hand smoke, there will probably always be a conflict between those who smoke in the privacy of their own apartments and others to whom smoke seeping through walls, ventilation shafts and miscellaneous cracks and crevices provides a genuine nuisance at the very least and a serious health concern at worst.

In New York City, the Smoke-Free Air Act of 2002 provides the following guidance:

·      “Smoking is prohibited in the common indoor areas of buildings with 10 or more dwelling units.

·      Common indoor areas of multiple dwelling units include hallways, stairwells, lobbies, laundry rooms, and other work areas of the building used by the tenants or by the maintenance and building personnel.

·      “No smoking” signs or the international symbol for “no smoking” must be displayed in all common indoor areas of the building.

·      Owners of residential buildings are responsible for all violations reported concerning the Smoke Free Air Act and may incur penalties if they fail to comply with the law.

·      Smoking is not prohibited in apartments and other private residences except in areas where child day care centers or health care facilities are being operated, are open, or employees are working.”

Further, NYC.gov states,

“There is no law that specifically prohibits a neighbor from smoking in his or her home. . . . . However, some owners do prohibit smoking in residences, in which case smoking indoors could be a violation of a lease or rental agreement.”

Thanks to the expert summations provided by the ARC General Counsel, Marc Luxemburg, Esq., we can provide the following information from a number of recent court rulings so that you may better appreciate the issues involved, the diversity of the legal opinions and so that you can make an informed judgement about smokers’ rights and the rights of those impacted by individual smoking, especially including building corporations.

The most oft-quoted and precedential case is  Ewen v Maccherone, (2009), reversed, Supreme Court Appellate Term, May 26, 2011 – Plaintiffs commenced the instant action to recover damages for negligence and private nuisance against defendants, alleging that secondhand smoke from defendants’ “excessive smoking” “seeped in” through the walls into plaintiffs’ apartment, which condition was “exacerbated” by a building-wide ventilation or “odor migration” construction design problem.

In fact, the complaint expressly stated that “while a smoking neighbor may be a mere annoyance under normal circumstances, due to the odor migration problem, secondhand smoke fills [plaintiffs’] kitchen, bedroom and living room, causing them to vacate their unit often at night” and resulting in personal injuries.

“Not every intrusion will constitute a nuisance. ‘Persons living in organized communities must suffer some damage, annoyance and inconvenience from each other . . . If one lives in the city he [or she] must expect to suffer the dirt, smoke, noisome odors and confusion incident to city life’ ” (Nussbaum v Lacopo, quoting Campbell v Seaman, 1876). And, defendants’ conduct in smoking in the privacy oftheir own apartment was not so unreasonable in the circumstances presented as to justify the imposition of tort liability against them

To the extent odors emanating from a smoker’s apartment may generally be considered annoying and uncomfortable to reasonable or ordinary persons, they are but one of the annoyances one must endure in a multiple dwelling building (see also:Matter of Levandusky v One Fifth Ave. Apt. Corp., 1990; and Poyck v Bryant,2006), especially one which does not prohibit smoking building-wide.

Defendants did not have a duty to refrain from smoking inside their apartment or to avoid exposing their neighbor to secondhand smoke that unintentionally seeped into the neighbor’s apartment, [and so] plaintiffs’ negligence claim must fail.

READ MORE CASE STUDIES


The Question of Dogs in Co-ops and Condos

The Question of Dogs in Co-ops & Condos

By Stephen J. Budihas

The issue of dogs in co-ops and condominiums has always been and will probably continue to be a contentious one, and one that has frequently led to widely diverse and often contradictory rulings in the courts.  We can make certain statements with some certainty:

  • The law requires a housing provider to reasonably accommodate disabled tenants, so they can enjoy the rights and privileges of the housing; but, there is ever the underlying issue of determining whether dogs are necessary to support an individual’s handicapping condition versus dogs that are merely helpful in providing comfort. Confounding the issue is the fact that today false accreditations are widely available through websites that offer fake “certifications” for dogs – no doctor’s note required.
  • Boards should have a dog policy in place and take any requests from disabled tenants seriously. The issue of a Board’s authority to establish and enforce certain rules with regard to the possession of pets and dogs in particular presents less controversy and is generallyupheld by law.
  • The means by which any Board expresses its rulings and proceeds to enforce them often serves as the fodder for litigation, overriding the “dog” issue. If a board is engaging in good faith in the interactive process, it’s probably not going to be held liable for its decisions — which are protected by the Business Judgment Rule unless the board is found to be discriminating against the disabled.
  • Often, the precise legal manner in which attorneys represent the issue before ruling authorities determines the outcome – thereby avoiding the issues presented by either party, altogether.

It is difficult to offer guidance under these prevailing circumstances, and so a number of recent rulings are cited here for reference.  READ CASE SUMMARIES

 

 


The Question of Bedbugs in Co-ops and Condos

The Question of Bed bugs in Co-ops & Condos

by Stephen J. Budihas

Co-op apartments are governed by proprietary leases, which allow the residents to occupy the apartment under a typical lease and take ownership of stock in the corporation that owns the building. Because these documents are leases, residents are covered by the warranty of habitability (New York Real Property Law, Section 235-b), which requires rental building owners to maintain the property in a condition fit for human habitation and free of conditions that would endanger the health, life, or safety of the occupants. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the co-op board to provide extermination of any bedbugs found in a co-op apartment.

For tenants in New York, the right to a bedbug-free environment is specifically included in the city’s Housing and Maintenance Code, Subchapter 2, Article 4 (see: below), which specifically names bedbugs in the list of insects the landlord is legally obligated to eradicate. Further, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) lists bedbugs as a Class B violation, which means that they are considered hazardous and that the landlord has 30 days to eradicate the infestation and also keep the affected units from getting reinfested.

Under §78(1) of the New York Multiple Dwelling Law, landlords are responsible for maintaining their premises in good repair. In addition, the implied warranty of habitability set forth in New York Real Property Law §235-b obligates a landlord to warrant that an apartment is habitable and in a condition that does not adversely affect a tenant’s health and safety.  Both statutes are applicable to cooperative apartments.

Housing Court and Civil Court cases have relied on these statutes in holding landlords responsible for failing to properly address bedbug infestations by giving an abatement or awarding damages for property loss that is the direct result of a landlord’s failure to properly address a bedbug infestation. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development specifically requires cooperatives to assume the responsibility for eliminating bedbug infestations. Therefore, boards of directors must assume responsibility for exterminating bedbugs in their buildings, specifically including infestations in cooperators’ apartments.

As an important side note, if treatment is not effective because a cooperator fails to properly prepare the apartment according to the selected exterminator’s instructions or because the cooperator failed to dispose of infested belongings pursuant to the exterminator’s directives, the cooperative would have a basis for charging the continuing extermination costs to the cooperator. The cooperative could then commence an action against the offending cooperator to recover these fees, provided the cooperative can obtain convincing evidence that the additional extermination costs are due to the cooperator’s conduct. (N.B.:  In dealing with a non-compliant cooperator, it is always important to work with the cooperative’s attorneys).

Further understanding of the situation and its legal bases, can be obtained by examining the provisions found in the New York City HOUSING MAINTENANCE CODE ARTICLE 4, entitled, “EXTERMINATION AND RODENT ERADICATION”:

  1. §27–2018.1 Notice of bedbug infestation history.
    1. For housing accommodations subject to this code, an owner shall furnish to each tenant signing a vacancy lease, a notice in a form promulgated or approved by the state division of housing and community renewal that sets forth the property’s bedbug infestation history for the previous year regarding the premises rented by the tenant and the building in which the premises are located.
    2. Upon written complaint, in a form promulgated or approved by the division of housing and community renewal, by the tenant that he or she was not furnished with a copy of the notice required pursuant to subdivision a of this section, the division of housing and community renewal shall order the owner to furnish the notice.
    3. An owner of a multiple dwelling shall (i) provide each tenant, upon commencement of a new lease and with each renewal lease, or (ii) post in a prominent public location within such multiple dwelling the following:
      1. a copy of the most recent electronic form submitted pursuant to subdivision a of section 27-2018.2; and
      2. a notice, in a form promulgated or approved by the department of health and mental hygiene, that provides information about the prevention, detection and removal of bedbug infestations.

As one can imagine, there are many instances of the cited rules and regulations being tested in our courts.  Two cases in particular have set the bar of precedence and should be of particular interest.  READ THE CASE STUDIES

 


Local Law 154 Informs Residents

In the ever expanding world of City regulations and requirements, Local Law 154, which was scheduled to go into effect on December 31, 2017 but whose effective date was extended to July 18, 2018 ensures that residents are informed of certain construction via a new Tenant Protection Plan.

Read more about the Local Law and the required postings here:  copies of the regulation, the required notice to tenants and the City Council law that amended the building code.

Co-ops and Co-op Boards Again Under Attack in Council

Thankfully they failed to pass the New York City Council in 2017, but Intro’s 1458 and 1467 that are specifically designed to limit and control certain powers and responsibilities of co-op boards still languish on the floor of the New York City Council.  And, while there was insufficient support to pass these bills last year,  Council Member Lander has found an insidious method to attempt to breathe life into them by cleverly subsuming his attack in a few paragraphs deep within a sweeping 32-page report on desegregation.

The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums has voiced strong opposition to the misleading information contained in Lander’s report with letters to all of the Council Members on the Committee for Housing and Buildings.  ARC’s response can be read by tapping here.


Maintaining Your Building’s “Bella Figura”

We all know that some things in life are taken for granted.

For example, one may not think too often about the fact that everyday residents of your building walk in and out of it and inevitably regard its appearance.  Most of Riverdale’s buildings have beautiful (or potentially beautiful) land areas that have long been one of the neighborhood’s most alluring features.  For some buildings the elegance and the beauty of their outside property is of prime importance. Unfortunately for others the outside features of the property too often suffer from neglect.

While it is the Board’s responsibility to make decisions regarding budget and the maintenance and appearance of the building’s grounds, it often falls to management each year to provide the board of directors with a plan to maintain and improve the property’s curb appeal.  Ideally, the board and management work together to proactively create an affordable plan for their building that specifically embraces ongoing care of its land area, and does not permit that obligation to be treated casually as in, “Maybe if we have enough left over in the budget”.

In this discussion, it should always be recalled that before potential buyers can be sold an apartment, they have to get inside the building. This is where the idea of curb appeal (Italians use the term bella figura) comes in. We know that when we shop for almost anything, regardless of the quality of the end-product, we tend to evaluate the packaging when making decisions. Simply stated, the nicer a property looks from the outside the more optimistic the shopper will be once they’ve entered the building (which will ultimately in turn benefit the residents and their individual investments).

Maybe we are not all experts at landscaping economically to preserve our assets.

The April 2018 issue of The Cooperator offered two excellent articles that can be of benefit to all board members and building managers who are duly concerned about their building’s landscaping.  Read about Choosing the Right Plants for Landscaping for your building; and Working With Your Landscape Architect


32BJ Contract Agreement for Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn & Staten Island

On Friday, April 13th a contract agreement was reportedly reached between Local 32BJ, representing building workers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and the Realty Advisory Board (RAB).  The new contract is set to run for four years through April 2022 and now needs to be ratified by the union’s members.

It was announced that the unratified deal includes 11.3% in pay raises over four years, as well as better retirement plans and benefits (the total increase in cost will be 13.28 %). The agreement will bring average wages up to $55,000 for the employees, making them among the highest-paid apartment workers in the country.  
 
The 32BJ contract for Bronx building employees doesnt expire until 2019.  If history is any indicator of the future, one might expect a similar agreement to be reached with the Bronx Realty Advisory Board (BRAB) next year.  
 
It may be prudent right now or whenever expenditures are discussed, for Boards of Directors, building managers and treasurers to take a quick look at the current settlement and how its cost increases may impact projected budgets.  Those buildings that develop 3-year and 5-year financial plans may especially benefit from this information.
 
As in the past several contract talks, the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums will be working closely with BRAB to represent its members’ interests during all negotiations with the union.

Legislators (Again) Seek to Govern Actions of Boards of Directors

Once again there are those in the New York State Senate and Assembly who would seek to restrict and control the autonomy of the cooperative boards of directors.  Year after year they (and others in the City Council, as well) introduce similarly restrictive legislation in the hope that the unwary may allow the bills to slip through.

The new bills (A10084 and Senate Bill 7523) contend that new provisions are needed to, “ensure uniformity and predictability to the application processes” used when potential homeowners seek to purchase cooperative apartments.  A second provision of the proposed legislation would force restrictive timelines to constrain and control each individual board’s review of purchase applications. The bills impugn the integrity of our co-op boards and actually go so far as to state that, “the processes and conditions [currently employed by cooperatives] give the appearance and have the potential to be misused against a purchaser of cooperative housing . . . [and] because New York State strongly opposes all illegal discrimination . . . ” additional safeguards are needed.

Co-ops boards are already properly guided in their actions by existing laws at every level of government.  No further impositions are needed.  State legislators must be informed and guided to vote “NO” against these bills.

Read a copy of the letter to our legislators from the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums urging the defeat of these bills here:


Human Rights Commission Opposes Proposed Regulation of Co-ops, too!

While the City Council of the City of New York occasionally sees fit to continue in its efforts to impose more regulation on co-op and condo Boards (see: Intros 1458 and 1467), even the Human Rights Commission has said that new, additional regulation is not needed. Read more.


More Regulation: Gas Lines Must be Inspected

The City Council of New York passed a new law that will take effect on January 1, 2019.  LL152 provides that building gas pipe systems must be inspected at least once every five years.  All exposed gas lines from point of entry of gas piping into a building, including building service meters, up to individual tenant spaces shall be inspected for evidence of excessive atmospheric corrosion or piping deterioration that has resulted in a dangerous condition, illegal connections, and non-code compliant installations shall be inspected by a licensed master plumber. The inspection entity shall also test public spaces, hallways, corridors, and mechanical and boiler rooms with a portable combustible gas detector.  The full text of LL152 can be read here.


New Law Relating to Conflicts of Interest in Co-ops and Condos

New bill, presented in both the New York State Assembly and Senate were signed into law by the governor on September 12, 2017 and are effective January 1, 2018.

The law adds a new section to the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law requiring annual reports for cooperative and condominium housing to be submitted to the members identifying any votes on contracts that were subject to laws relating to related party transactions. The law also adds a new section to the Business Corporation Law requiring annual reports for cooperative and condominium housing to be submitted to shareholders identifying any votes on contracts that were subject to laws relating to related party transactions.

You can view the full text of the Assembly bill here.

You can view the full text of the Senate bill here.

 

 


New Heating Regulations

The City Council and the Mayor of New York City have passed new legislation that will impact all of us in many ways.

Beginning October 1, 2017, pursuant to Local Law 86 of 2017, the regulations regarding providing heat during the nighttime hours have changed.  Read the full text of the new regulation here.

Between October 1 – May 31 property owners must maintain an indoor temperature of 62° inside all apartments at all times — this means regardless of the outside temperature. More specifically, this means that the temperature inside apartments at night must now legally remain at 62° (up from 55°) even between the hours of 10PM and 6AM without any regard to the outside temperature (outside temperature formerly needed to be below 40°). The legal daytime temperature inside remains at 68° whenever the outside temperature is below 55°.

This change in the law will undoubtedly have an immediate impact on all buildings.

  • Boilers will be working much more often, and oftentimes around the clock, without needed rest.
  • Heating systems will require additional maintenance and surveillance.
  • The loss of heat through improperly insulated pipes will become a greater problem than it now is.
  • And, obviously, every building can expect to require more heating fuel — meaning an increased number of fuel deliveries (how will the already much-maligned fuel delivery industry respond?)
  • Obviously too, these changes come with resultant increased demands on the operating budgets of every building.

These are all issues that need to be addressed now by Boards and building managers, before the cold weather is upon us and before the impact of LL86 is felt.


Service Dog Scams Abound

There are few issues confronting co-op and condo boards that are more emotionally charged by those on both sides of the argument than dog ownership.  Those who own dogs are adamant, vociferous and often deceitful in their passion.  Those opposing dog ownership in their buildings defend the “no dog” clause of their House Rules with equal fervor.

Each year “dog cases” are litigated in the local courts; and each year there seem to be conflicting opinions handed down.  Usually the judicial opinions reflect procedural issues that the plaintiff or the defendant followed or failed to follow, and prudently avoid the issue of dog ownership or the banning of dogs.

Much is written annually, too, and in an attempt to provide some guidance to Boards of Directors and to dog owners, as well, one can read more about Bogus Therapy Dogs in Co-opsDisability Dogs and  Disability Dog Certification.


Co-op Boards Must Establish Smoking Policies

1585-A passed the City Council and is now law.

Read the entire text of Int. No 1585-A here.

Here is a model Smoking Policy for your consideration.


Sidewalk Shed System is “Broken!”

Contractors dealing with Local Law 11 provisions or other building façade work are appropriately required to protect areas used by pedestrians, and they usually do so by sub-contracting the installation of sidewalk sheds.  The businesses that install the sheds generally appear eager for the work and upon contracting, usually do so very rapidly — often long before work on the building actually begins. Then they are required to leave them in place after the work is completed and after it is certified by a professional engineer, until a Department of Housing inspector comes out and OK’s the engineer’s approval and certification of the completed project.  Then, and only then can the sheds finally be removed — at the convenience of the shed contractor, of course.

During the entire time that sheds are up, landlords, cooperative apartment shareholders and condominium owners must shoulder the unnecessary burden of costs associated with the sheds outside of the time that work is being done on the buildings.  Read more


Co-ops Push Back Against Bills to Speed Application Process

For years, co-op boards have fended off legislative efforts to rein in their considerable powers – especially on the thorny issue of how they screen prospective buyers. This year is no different. Bills before the New York State Senate and New York City Council are looking to put time limits on co-op boards as they review purchase applications. And co-ops are pushing back. The battle has been joined.

“We are looking for people to move into the buildings who will be financially secure and can afford the mortgage,” says Stephen Budihas, president of the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums, which represents over 20,000 units in 130 buildings. “I don’t know of a single shareholder or condo unit-owner who lives in any of our member buildings who failed on their mortgage or monthly maintenance during the mortgage crisis in 2008-2009. That speaks volumes to the quality of review each of these boards of directors conducted.”

read more


Newly Proposed Legislation Strikes At Autonomy of Co-op Boards

By Stephen J. Budihas, February 12, 2017

At times elected officials are all-to-quick to address the complaints and concerns of a disgruntled individual or a fat-cat supporter by proposing a new blanket of legislation that would needlessly and unfairly cover thousands of law-abiding and already scrupulously governed citizens.   Such is currently the case, in both the State legislature and the City Council. Representing only the prurient self-interest of some few realtors eager to rapidly turn over the sales of apartments and perhaps even fewer resentful prospective purchasers of apartments who failed to meet the criteria for admission to a co-op here or there – bills have been proposed that would drastically hamstring, undermine and negate the best efforts of legally constituted co-op review committees throughout the City and the State.

Read the entire article here.


New Rules for Balcony Enclosures

Recent balcony accidents highlighted that many balcony railings are uninspected and may be unsafe. Thus, the Buildings Department amended the Rules of the City of New York (RCNY) to require balcony railings and their connections on all buildings taller than six stories to be evaluated for structural soundness as a part of New York City’s Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP ­– a/k/a Local Law 11/98).

Read more


Business in Your Co-op or Condo? Probably NOT!

In New York City, there are various restrictions in place that apartment-dwellers must follow regarding what type of business they can operate and what they can sell.  New York City’s zoning resolutions strictly govern or prohibit many businesses and especially daycares.  Additionally, regulations don’t permit any home business with multiple employees or that require numerous deliveries. Recently the “The Cooperator” published an article that discusses this issue.

(Read more)


Co-op Shareholders Deserve Reverse Mortgages, If They Want Them!

The issues surrounding reverse mortgages are many and they are debatable.  For a certain segment of our population they may provide needed cash.  Home owners are eligible to apply them, but currently co-op owners may not.

We do not wish to argue the merits or shortcomings, but rather simply endorse the availability of reverse mortgages, replete with appropriate protections and sanctions and subject to the approval of Boards of Directors (just like any other mortgage), as may be afforded to our neighbors who own their private homes.

During the 2015-2016 legislative session in Albany, Senator Klein introduced a bill, s7844, that would simply amend the existing law to include cooperative dwellings, rather than exclude them as the law currently does.  This amendment needs to be reintroduced and passed in the legislature.


New Property Tax Classification for Co-ops and Condos Needed

During the 2015-2016 legislative session an important piece of legislation was introduced, but there was no final action on it.

Senate Bill s-893 would “amend the real property tax law, the administrative code of the city of New York and the real property law, in relation to classifying properties held in condominium and cooperative form for assessment purposes as class one-a properties.”  This would remove co-ops and condos from the same classification as commercial income-producing dwellings and bring their property tax rate closer to that enjoyed by owners of one- two- and three- family homes.

Needless to say is an important measure that would obviate the need to seek tax rebatements from the legislature every three years, as is currently the case, and properly treat co-op and condo owners as the “home” owners they truly are.


Bill to Restrict Autonomy of Boards

During the 2015-2016 session of the New York State Legislature a number of bills were sponsored, but not enacted.  One of them is of special concern to all co-operators and condominium owners throughout the state.  Operating from its stated premises that during the review of applications, a Board of Directors may “illegally discriminate against a purchaser of cooperative housing” and “that the process for purchasing a cooperative dwelling include additional safeguards to protect against illegal discrimination”.

As everyone who has ever served on a Board of Directors is fully aware there are many laws at all levels of government that protect against immoral discrimination and provide for sanctions against those who engage in such illegal activity.  Further, Boards operate under the close scrutiny of their shareholders, attorneys and managers and neither should any of those people should be assumed to be engaged in illegal activity (as the proposed bill suggests).

Nevertheless, there are a few outside of the City of New York and outside of Westchester county who would (perhaps unknowingly) seek to impose grossly unnecessary and unwarranted sanctions and limitations on the actions of Boards of Directors – as are detailed in last year’s proposed Bill (S-5644).  The full text of the bill can be found here.

It is fervently hoped that this bill, in any form or modification, will not be reintroduced.  ARC joins its sister organizations from throughout New York City and Westchester in a unified front to oppose the legislation.  It is hoped that you will review the text of the old bill and encourage your elected officials to strongly oppose any effort in its behalf.


North Riverdale Smart Growth Plan

A plan to markedly alter the appearance of several parts of Riverdale has been sponsored by a bloc of local individuals and businesses.  The proposition is still in its early stages and may be followed by a revision before any serious action will be forthcoming.  However, some if not all of the recommendations may be forthcoming with or without the input of the residents of our community.  So that you may fully review the plan and come to your own conclusions, a copy can be found here.


Directors’ Ethics

A director has a duty of good faith and loyalty to the cooperative. This means that:

  • A director owes allegiance to the cooperative and must act in the best interests of the cooperative while acting in his or her official capacity.
  • A director should be diligent to ensure that the cooperative’s interests are pursued during the meetings of the board of directors.
  • A director may not use the position for personal profit, gain or other personal advantage over other member shareholders of the cooperative.
  • A director is accountable to the member shareholders of the cooperative for his or her official actions and can be held personally liable for fraud or breach of fiduciary duty in the conduct of the cooperative’s affairs.
  • A director who exercises honest and reasoned judgment and acts reasonably and in good faith for the best interests of the cooperative will not be held liable for violation of his or her fiduciary obligation to the cooperative.

Read “BoD Code of Ethics” which must define a Director’s service.


Duties of Co-op / Condo Boards

The charges for Boards are several: fiduciary responsibility; policy and operational
decisions; loyalty and reporting to the building’s residents; and long-term care for
the physical aspects of the corporation.

Learn more about the Duties of the Board of Directors


In response to ARC requests, Congressman Engel petitions HUD for Reverse Mortgages for co-ops

On July 27, just one day after he spoke with ARC’s president about the matter at the ARC Annual Dinner, Congressman Eliot Engel, called on Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro to issue regulations swiftly to allow co-op owners to take part in HUD’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program.

“While Congress extended the reverse mortgage option to co-op owners through the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, HUD has not issued the regulations needed to execute this section of housing law,” Engel said.  “I spoke to Secretary Castro last week, and followed up with a letter, urging him to issue regulations so that co-op owners can also take advantage of this program.”  Read the full text of the Congressman’s press release here.

Read the full text of Congressman Engel’s letter to HUD Castro


Senator Jeffrey Klein Introduces Legislation to make Reverse Mortgages Available to Co-op Owners

Responding to entreaties from ARC and other advocacy groups, New York Senator Jeffrey Klein introduced legislation in Albany that would amend the real property law to make reverse mortgages available to cooperators over the age of 70.  Known as S-7844, the measure is a simple one that would merely include cooperators in the universe of those permitted to apply for reverse mortgages, rather than allow them to be singled out and excluded from availing themselves of that potential resource.  Read the text of Act S-7844.  As the legislative session in Albany drew to a close at the end of June, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz indicated that the measure, already passed by the NYS Senate, had not reached the Assembly in time for action in this term, but that it would be high on his priority list come the fall of 2016.


Co-op Residents Deserve Reverse Mortgages, Too!

If you’re 62 or older and own your own private home or certain approved condominium – and want money to pay off your mortgage, supplement your income or pay for healthcare expenses – you may be able to consider a reverse mortgage. It allows you to convert part of the equity in your home into cash without having to sell your home. BUT, if you are co-op owner this valuable resource is NOT available to you. This is because of the current guidelines set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the concomitant New York State banking regulations do not include co-op owners in the classification of those who may apply.  Read more.


Proposed Changes in the Neighborhood

Living in a City as grand as our own, one is often faced with issues that are vast in scope and can at times appear to lose sight of the particular needs and interests of the citizenry it is empowered to serve.  Riverdale, and undoubtedly a few other neighborhoods in the City like it, are currently faced with local legislative action that may have great impact on the quality and character of those neighborhoods.  In addition, residential communities are continually faced with the onslaught of unwanted commercial development that also inevitably diminish the personality and stability of the areas.

An important change is being considered on at least one site in Riverdale; and that that change, if it occurs may simply be a harbinger of similar, undesirable changes to come.

The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums joins all of the residents of our community in expressing its concern about unrestrained and unwanted development that has the possibility of altering the way of life that has become so representative of our neighborhood, a way of life that has specifically attracted us to the area and contributed to its permanency for decades.

Read more here about the details of the prospective development, and to learn how several of our neighbors think about the proposals.


Problematic and Disruptive Neighbors

The vast majority of co-op and condo residents are decent folks who wouldn’t dream of disrupting life in their buildings by being verbally abusive to neighbors, by loading up board members’ phones and email inboxes with endless complaints and threats, or by filing lawsuits at the drop of a hat for every slight (real or perceived) that they suffer. Unfortunately, there are shareholders and unit owners who seem to thrive on these very things and they can make life miserable for neighbors, board members and managers alike. But, there are ways to deal with them effectively, and civilly. Read More


Fraudulent Service Animals

There are few people as passionate as pet owners, and for evidence look no further than condo and co-op
communities. The many health and aesthetic concerns that go with pets compel many boards to favor a ban
on pets altogether.  Federal law provides for exceptions to pet bans in the case of those who can demonstrate a need for a service dog.  But, very few laws have been abused as far as the reasonable accommodation statute.  Read more


Senators Introduce New Co-op / Condo Property Tax Bill

New York State Senators Jeffrey Klein and Tony Avila  have newly introduced a number of bills regarding co-ops and condos, especially including S893, which for the first time would recognize co-ops and condos as the unique forms of housing that they are and create a residential property taxation class separate from commercial residential properties (and, necessarily if the act is to have any chance of passing, also separate from one–  two– and three–family homes).

Read the text of the proposed S893.


Riverdale: Home to Many Notable New Yorkers

Riverdale has always been a favored place to live.  Many notable New Yorkers have called the area, “home”  Click here to view a brief listing of some the past and present neighborhood celebrities.


Responsibilities of Directors

Eric T. Schneiderman, the Attorney General of the State of New York has published the guidelines governing the actions of Directors of all not-for-profit corporations.  Read more.


How is Your Building’s Property Tax Calculated?

The system that is used to calculate each individual property’s annual real estate tax assessment is complicated, but does not need to be mystifying. Read how its done here in the  Coop & Condo Property Tax Guide


ARC Urges State Legislators to Renew Tax Abatement

The Association of Riverdale Co-ops and Condominiums has contacted local State representatives in an effort to ensure that a new measure is sponsored and supported, and more importantly passed in a timely fashion, so that property owners are not hit with an unduly large tax bill this summer when the current legislation expires.  Read more, as published in the Riverdale Press 050715 


Sprinkler Disclosure Law Goes into Effect 12/3/14

We have been reminded by our General Counsel, Marc Luxemburg, that pursuant to New York State Real property Law, Article 7 Section 231-a and effective December 3, 2014, all residential leases must contain a notice in bold face type as to the existence or non-existence of a Sprinkler System in the Leased Premises.

For most of us, the Leased Premises are the apartment which is the subject of the proprietary lease. If there is no sprinkler system in the apartment, this Sprinkler Disclosure Notice may be used. If there is a sprinkler system in the apartment, this must be disclosed in the notice and the notice must state the last date of maintenance and inspection.

The notice must be inserted into and made part of every proprietary lease, including any amendments that may be made in the future.

If you have questions, please consult your building’s attorney or you may contact Mr. Luxemburg at Gallet, Dreyer & Berkey, LLP at 212 935-3131 or mjl@gdblaw.com

 


Thinking of Buying A Co-op?

The National Consumer Cooperative Bank, one of the areas largest lenders to co-ops and condominiums has published an informative guide that answers many questions regarding the purchase of an apartment.  Learn more by reading the Consumers-Guide-to-Buying-a-Co-op


Hiring a New Building Manager?

Here are some Questions for Prospective Building Managers


Negotiating Management Contracts

Drawing up a contract for management services looks at first glance like a simple task. Such contracts usually follow a particular format and outline similar services for both co-ops and condos, regardless of size.

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But what about contract areas where there’s room for negotiation?

How can a board and a management company arrive at a contract that helps foster a cooperative relationship?

Learn about Negotiating Management Contracts.


32BJ Contract to Expire in March 2015

images-2On March 14, 2015 the contract between local union 32BJ and the Bronx Realty Advisory Board shall expire.  The agreement between the two bodies describes and governs the working conditions and arrangements in most of the buildings in the Bronx, specifically including the co-ops and condos throughout Riverdale.  The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums continues to be the representative voice for the latter and has already begun meeting with BRAB officials regarding contract negotiations which will begin sometime in early 2015.  During the past year, a contract agreement with the local was reached with a separate bargaining unit in Manhattan (read about the 32BJ Building Agreement – 2014 (Manhattan)).  This agreement has historically served as the basis for negotiations in the Bronx.

All co-op and condo Boards should be familiar with the entire contract.  A copy of the entire BRAB-CONTRACT 2011-2015 is available to you here.  Boards of Directors should review the contract and note any exceptions or additions that they are concerned with, and notify ARC directly of their concerns.


Estate Planning

Many married cooperators purchased their apartments prior to 1996.  Those who did may be living under a misconception that since both he husband and wife’s names appear on the ownership documents that if either passes, the other shall automatically become the sole owner.  Such may not be the case!  Attorney Ronald A. Sher of the law firm Himmelfarb & Sher, LLP recently wrote an article that was published in the November 2013 issue of Habitat magazine.  Entitled,  An Estate Planning Primer, we are pleased to make the information available and strongly suggest reading it and then possibly consulting your own attorney.


Co-op and Condo Property Tax Guide

N.Y. State Law mandates that New York City value all Class 2 properties as income producing, based on their income and expenses. This means that when you see the Market Value that NYC assigns to your property, it may not look like what you would expect its sales price to be.

To get to your Market Value, NYC uses a statistical model as a tool to find typical income and expenses for properties similar to yours (in terms of size, location, number of units and age). Next,  a formula is applied to the income data to get to your Market Value.

All rental buildings, cooperatives and condominiums are valued as if they are income producing properties. There are variations in how  your Market Value is determined depending on whether you live in a larger condo or co-op with 11 units or more, or a smaller building with 10 units or fewer.

The rules, regulations and the system can all be very confusing, but NYC has published a guide to Coop & Condo Property Tax Guide that explains and may clarify the issues.


Property Tax Abatement – February 2014

You may have heard a number of conflicting or confusing statements regarding the property tax abatement for Co-ops and Condos.  To read and understand the City’s official position you can read all of the latest official information here.

Co-op boards are legally required to report changes or discrepancies in ownership or eligibility for the 2013/14 tax year to Finance by February 15, 2014. Changes must be reported using the Co-op Tax Benefit Change Form which is an Excel spreadsheet that should be downloaded for your use (if necessary).  Note that using this link will place the spreadsheet on your desktop for your use, but nothing will appear on your browser window!

To further clarify certain other abatement-related issues for you, the answers to many frequently asked questions are provided by New York City Department of Finance here.

 

 


Con Edison to Bring Gas Lines to Riverdale

More than three years ago the leadership of the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums visited with the Vice President of Con Edison and his leadership team to present the innovative idea of bringing substantial natural gas supplies to Riverdale.  Many of the co-ops & condos in our neighborhood were beginning to consider alternative heating fuels and natural gas could be a very fine alternative, were it available in quantity.  It was not, at that time.

ARC continued the conversation with Con Edison and about a year later, bringing natural gas to Riverdale was on the table, but the costs involved for any individual building were exhaustive and prohibitive.  ARC introduced the idea of grouping (later known as “clustering”) neighboring buildings to receive distribution lines in the plan so that each would not need to bear the full cost of digging and running the required piping through the streets.  ARC continued to lobby against charging individual buildings the full cost of bringing lines in from the main sources (which was at the time the operative plan).

On several occasions, ARC presented representatives of Con Edison (and others) to its membership to present the details involved in conversion to gas heating, and for the past several years, ARC continued to supply information both at our seminars and on its website to assist Boards and managers as they considered the conversion plans that became available.

While it is certain that the efforts of many groups and individuals combined to make the availability of natural gas in our area a reality, and it is certainly not our intention to gloat,  it is nevertheless with considerable pride that we have read the newly posted notices in our neighborhood, and note that our efforts to serve our community have been realized.

By now most of us have seen the announcement from Con Edison attached below for your convenience:

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Work Notice

Monday, November 18, 2013

Con Edison is installing a new gas main to improve service in your area. Work is already underway and will continue through mid-February. The excavation will impact on-street parking, and in some areas we may need to close streets to vehicular traffic to expedite this work. Excavated areas will be covered by road plates at the end of each shift, and the full width of the roadway will be open to vehicles and pedestrians. We will maintain storage areas along our route during this project.

Work hours are weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Work will be performed in segments to minimize traffic disruptions. When work is completed on one segment, the road will be permanently restored before moving to the next segment.

Work Areas:

Knolls Crescent, Arlington Avenue, West 227th Street, Henry Hudson Parkway

Palisade Avenue and Kappock Street

Johnson Avenue and Kappock Street

Independence Avenue between West 227th and West 230th Streets

Douglas Avenue and West 236th Street

Henry Hudson Parkway between West 235th and Johnson Avenue

Netherland Avenue between West 236th Street and Henry Hudson Parkway

West 238th Street between Johnson and Riverdale Avenues

West 238th Street between Riverdale and Waldo Avenues

 

We apologize for any inconvenience.

For more information, call Public Affairs at 1-914-925-6315 or e-mail Evelyn Oliver at olivere@conEd.com.

 


Hudson River Valley Greenway

The vast undertaking known as the Hudson River Valley Greenway that includes the development of green space and bicycle paths through Riverdale  will have a definite impact on our neighborhood.  The complete and comprehensive report issued by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council is available here: Hudson River Valley Greenway Report


The Mayor’s Carbon Challenge

In the fall of 2013, New York City is launching a new Mayor’s Carbon Challenge for multifamily buildings, engaging with some of the leading property management firms and private building owners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from these large residential buildings. You are no doubt aware of the Mayor’s ambitious goal to reduce citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 30 percent by the year 2030.  The concept is now being expanded with The Mayor’s Carbon Challenge which works by inspiring a high-level commitment to reducing energy use and emissions within organizations, creating a platform for the exchange of information and ideas, and providing simple tools to track and measure progress along the way. By the end of the program, participants already enrolled are expected to reduce citywide emissions by more than 600,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year and collectively save over $100 million in reduced energy costs annually.

The plan (which currently includes hospitals, universities, etc.) is to embrace individual buildings and groups of buildings through the cooperation and support of building managers and co-op and condo Boards of Directors.

You may be interested in the program and in improving the “greening” of your building(s) and of our neighborhood.  Or you may simply want to “stay in the know” about what’s happening around town.

An eye-catching, informative presentation about the program can be found here:  Mayor’s Carbon Challenge Presentation

Specific information about The Mayor’s Carbon Challenge in multifamily dwellings and in coo-ops and condos may be found here:

Multifamily Challenge Program Design

Challenge Program Design for Co-Ops and Condos


Register Now for S.T.A.R.

As you may already know, S.T.A.R. is a state-administered program that provides for the partial reduction in taxes for certain qualified property owners. Basic STAR is available for owner-occupied, primary residences where the resident owners’ and their spouses’ income is less than $500,000 and exempts the first $30,000 of the full value of a home from school taxes.  Enhanced STAR provides an increased benefit for the primary residences of senior citizens (age 65 and older) with qualifying incomes and exempts the first $63,300 of the full value of a home from school taxes as of 2013-14 school tax bills.

During the last week in September, you should have received a notice of advice in the mail regarding registration for this program.  And, quite naturally registration (either on line or by using paper forms) should be completed before the deadline.

Whether you are a Board member, Board president or building manager, you may want to remind your neighbors to heed the notice and follow through with the registration (which will save them money!!).

Complete information for property owners is available from New York State at http://tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star13/default.htm

Information from New York City for building managers and Boards can be found at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/property/exemptions.shtml


City Council Primary, September 10, 2013

 

The selection of the best qualified Councilman to represent Riverdale cooperators and condominium owners in matters of city government is a crucial one.  Read a brief statement by ARC President Stephen Budihas here: City Council Primary September 10, 2013.

Learn more about the candidates’ views by clicking here: ARC – City Council Candidate Questions & Responses


Sound Fiscal Policy

One of the most important responsibilities of any co-op board is the establishment and maintenance of sound fiscal policies and procedures that will protect their shareholders, provide for the continuity of the property and protect the Board of Directors and its individual Board members from any financial miscues.  Click here for an outline of Fiscal Policies that your Board should be considering.


Fair Admissions Policy

Most cooperative corporations require a prospective purchaser to submit an application and various supporting documents containing personal and confidential information concerning an applicant’s history and finances. The Board of Directors may also require one or more personal interviews with the prospective purchaser. The handling of this application and interview process may be subject to scrutiny and claims of unlawful discrimination.  The Council of New York Cooperatives has published an easy reference guide to help Boards of Directors stay within the law. Click here for a Co-op Board Admissions Guide.


Choose Your Contractors

Is your Board of Directors or your building manager considering  Selecting a Contractor? Find out some of the best advice when seeking someone to work for your building.


Information About Bronx Buildings

The City of New York gathers and publishes myriad pieces of information, some of it more useful than others.  Among the data that it has collected are the size, value and similar descriptors of hundreds of buildings (although not all buildings are in the tabulation) located in Riverdale and throughout the Bronx.  The data reflect co-op properties as well as “comparable” rentals.

Oftentimes these data are used to create a basis for establishing market value among properties. You may be able to find out some of the most recent (January 2013) useful facts about your building by clicking here to download a comprehensive spreadsheet:  Bronx Co-ops


Code of Ethics for Board Members

So, you are considering running for the Board of Directors.  OK, so you have tons of time and are a glutton for punishment — you have met the two most important criteria.  Now, let’s consider your real responsibilities and obligations to the Board, to the Corporation and to the shareholders.

Just how will you be expected (by your neighbors and by law) to conduct yourself if you are elected?

And, for those of you who have just been crowned “President” of your Board, you might want to start on day one, minute one by reviewing this hugely important document: BoD Code of Ethics


Problems With Your Board of Directors?

As our Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman reminds us, members of co-op boards are usually other shareholders who are serving without pay. They generally want to resolve problems and keep peace in the building.  But, sometimes that is not the case.  New York State has published a Q & A brochure that may provide some helpful information for dealing with a Board of Directors that you believe may have gone astray.  See the brochure here:  Problems w/ Co-op Boards


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