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2015 Contract Settlement with Local 32BJ

On Thursday, March 12, 2015, the Bronx Realtors Advisory Board (BRAB) which represents many of the co-ops and condos in the Bronx reached a contract settlement with Local 32BJ which represents building workers, including superintendents, porters, handymen and doormen in many Bronx buildings.  The full contract will be distributed through building owners and building managers, but you can read the Summary of New 32BJ Contract.


Bad Officials are Elected by Good Citizens Who Don’t Vote

Decisions are made in the City Council, Albany and Washington D.C. not by the majority of the population, but by those who are elected by the majority of those who decide to vote.  If we want our thoughts and beliefs to be considered, then voting is always a right that should not be taken lightly.  We should need only to briefly recall the struggles in our nation that have brought us the voting rights we now enjoy; or to look at the many countries around the world where people do not have a voice in government, in order to appreciate our right to vote.

By our vote or by the absence of our votes we either earn the right to petition, to complain and to see our interests supported; or otherwise to end up doing no more than sulking silently, carping and sharing our misery and discontentment with our neighbors.images

On September 9th voters in Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Pelham, Mosholu and other areas of the Bronx represented by the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums will have an important decision to make on Primary Day.  As in many elections, the candidates for New York State Senator differ significantly in their views, but in this election the candidates differ notably in their perception of shareholders’ rights in cooperative apartments, the rights of duly elected Boards of Directors and the rights of owners of condominiums.  As in most local elections, victory may likely be determined by merely a few hundred votes, districtwide, making every vote so much more important.

It is important that all members of the affected voting population take a hard look at the beliefs, voting records and intentions of the candidates on the ballot, particularly in regard to our chosen styles of living.   As Primary Day approaches, it is important too that we reflect on our responsibility to self-governance, and ask whether we want to be heard, respected and listened to, or be told that intelligences far greater than our own should dictate our way of life.

In our District (see:  District Map.pdf) a victory in the Democratic Primary often infers a victory in the general election, so the turnout and the vote are especially critical.

If you will not be around on September 9th, you may apply for an absentee ballot until seven (7) days before the election (see: Absentee Ballot.pdf)

If you are at work on September 9th and you need time to vote, you should be aware of the New York State Election Law (see: Employees Election Law.pdf), which specifically mandates that employees be granted time to vote.

Voting booths

Finally, you should be aware that some polling places have changed.  You can locate your polling location by going to

poll site locator.com/Search.aspx.

 

 

 


FEMA Policy to Assist Co-ops and Condos

After Hurricane Sandy, thousands of homeowners in damaged co-ops and condos were surprised to learn that they were largely barred from federal disaster assistance given to single-family homes. Under FEMA policy, co-ops, as well as condominium and other homeowners’ associations, are considered business entities not eligible for assistance that can reach up to $30,000 per household.

A group of New York and New Jersey legislators plan to introduce a bill in Congress this week seeking to change a longstanding Federal Emergency Management Agency policy that make it impossible for co-ops to obtain grants for damages to lobbies, roofs and other common areas.

Read the full article, published in the New York Times on July


Community Board to Consider Property Development

Community Board #8 will consider, among other items, development plans of property 3741 & 3735 Riverdale Avenue and 3644 Oxford Avenue for a proposed 11-story medical facility with parking.

Notice of the board’s meeting, may be located here: Community Board Agenda, 11/7/13

A number of ARC members have expressed concern about this particular construction, and Mr. Stuart Gartner, one of our local co-op board presidents has volunteered to share his concerns and certain pertinent information with any local residents who may be interested.  Stuart may be contacted at  sgartner@gbglaw.com

 


Bogus Therapy Dogs

Many boards are dealing with a plethora of false claims of disability to avoid pet prohibitions. Not physical disability or psychiatric disability, for which there are specially trained service dogs, but emotional disability – which no one can see and anyone can claim. So what’s to be done?

Read more here:  Bogus Therapy Dogs in Co-ops


Storm Recovery Grants for Co-ops & Condos

Riverdale’s Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) will co-sponsor legislation to make it easier for condominiums and cooperatives to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual Assistance, and eliminating the cap on aid so that residents can have full access to recovery from natural disasters, now given to stand-alone homes.  Currently, they are only eligible to receive loans, not grants, because they are classified as “business associations” under FEMA rules.

Read the full text of Representative Engel’s July 29, 2013 statement


New FEMA Policy may Assist Co-ops and Condos

After Hurricane Sandy, thousands of homeowners in damaged co-ops and condos were surprised to learn that they were largely barred from federal disaster assistance given to single-family homes. Under FEMA policy, co-ops, as well as condominium and other homeowners’ associations, are considered business entities not eligible for assistance that can reach up to $30,000 per household.  A group of New York and New Jersey legislators plan to introduce a bill in Congress this week seeking to change a longstanding Federal Emergency Management Agency policy that excludes co-ops from being able to obtain grants for damages to lobbies, roofs and other common areas.  Read the whole story, published in the New York Times here: FEMA Policy to Assist Co-ops and Condos – NYTimes.com


NYC Clean Heat Program for 2014

If you are interested in switching to a clean heat source, or you are in the midst of a fuel conversion discussion/project with your Board of Directors, it is important that you keep up-to-date with the latest information and programs offered by the City of New York and by Con Edison.

Read the very latest here: NYC Clean Heat Program 2014

You can get even more information by moving to the navigation tab marked “Resources for Co-ops” and pulling down to the section entitled “Fuel Conversion”


Property Tax Abatement

There is a broad degree of disparity among private homeowners and cooperators who individually own their homes when it comes to taxation.  The issue is a never-ending one, that, according to many legislators is an irresolvable one.

In an effort to patch the difference in the tax burden borne by different classifications of home owners, New York State has granted an abatement of property taxes to cooperators for several years.

  • The Council of New York Co-ops offered a history of the abatement program in August 2012 and is available for your perusal: CNYC re Tax Abatement 0812.
  • Want still more?  Read the full text of the NYS Senate Legislation (S-7480)

City Council Intro 0188 Will Hamstring Co-op Boards

The City Council is continuing its unfair and unwarranted onslaught against co-ops and co-op Boards.

ARC has received the following notification from our General Counsel, Mr. Marc Luxemburg:

A bill has again been introduced in the New York City Council that constitutes a grave danger to every cooperative Board and Director of a cooperative.  The bill would place strict limitations on the way the Board responds to an application for purchase of an apartment with strict time deadlines and severe penalties for failure to comply.  The bill is a serious threat to the continued operation of cooperatives as we know them and should be vigorously opposed by all Board members and shareholders of cooperatives.

The bill is City Council Intro 0188-2010.  Although the bill is ostensibly aimed at preventing discrimination by cooperative boards, the legislative preamble specifically admits that there is no evidence that housing discrimination is more prevalent in cooperative buildings than in any other form of housing.  Nonetheless, the legislature proposes to have a uniform process that would severely restrict the ability of the board to respond to an application and would specifically redown to the benefit of both sellers and prospective purchasers.  Notably missing from the list of people benefitted by this legislation are existing shareholders and members of the Board whose rights are not only ignored but trampled upon by this legislation.  We note that although the legislation ostensibly has a civil rights orientation, it is in fact being pushed and supported principally by real estate brokers who evidently see it as a way to prevent boards from turning down their deals.

Specifically, Intro 188, known ironically as the “Fair Cooperative Procedure Law” requires the following:

  • That every Board adopt a standardized application form and a list of requirements that must be provided to “any applicant” upon request.
  • A copy of the standardized admission form and requirements must be provided to the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
  • Any change in the application form or requirements must be submitted within 5 business days of such change or modification to the Commission.
  • When an application is submitted, the Board has 10 business days to respond in writing either that the application is complete or explaining any deficiencies.
  • If further information is requested within the 10 days, the submission of further information is also upon receipt subject to the same 10 day limitation as to whether it is complete or requires more information.
  • Once all the information is received, the Board has 45 calendar days to approve or disapprove in writing the application.  If the application is disapproved, each Board member who participated in the decision is required to individually sign a written certification that the Board member did not discriminate on the basis of any known protected category.
  • Should the Board not respond within 45 days, any application fee paid to the Board or the Managing Agent, must be refunded, and the applicant is entitled to send a 10 day notice to the Board demanding a response.  If the Board does not respond within the 10 days, the application is deemed accepted.  (The Board is given an additional period of time if the application is received between July 1 and September 10.)

It must be evident to any Board member that 10 business days is a patently unreasonable requirement and that the obligation to locate all deficiencies within the 10 days is equally unrealistic.  Adding insult to injury, if the Board does not act within the 45 day window, the applicant may institute a civil action against the cooperative and be awarded three times the application fees, and $5,000 in attorneys’ fees.  Alternatively, a proceeding may be commenced before the Human Rights Commission for the same penalties.  In addition, the Court or the Commission may award a civil penalty against the cooperative that fails to comply with any of the requirements of the law.  The penalty can be as high as $15,000, should there be a third instance of non-compliance, and of course, attorneys’ fees may be awarded.

It is evident that the Council has taken no cognizance of the fact that cooperatives are run by volunteer home owners who, without compensation, undertake the management of the cooperative for the benefit of their fellow shareholders.  Instead, the Board members are treated as if they are landlords.

We strongly suggest that every Board member and shareholder immediately write to their City Councilperson vigorously opposing this bill.  A sample letter is attached, however, it would be better if each person could write an individual letter based on the form, using the form for talking points.

NYS Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz recognizes the need to defeat this Intro.  Read his letter of support:  Dinowitz ARC Legislation letter

 


Veterans Property Tax Exemption

Too often our veterans, those who put their lives on the line so that we Americans can continue to enjoy our freedoms and our way of life, are forgotten or given infrequent and non-substantial lip service.  Whether our veterans return from service visibly impaired as a result of the terrible horrors of battle, or they are scarred emotionally or psychologically for the rest of their lives, or whether they simply gave of their time to support the needs of those in combat — in decency and fairness we owe it to them all to show our appreciation in ways that have some tangible impact.

There is currently a resolution in the State Legislature (A. 514 /S. 3872) that will amend the State Real Property Tax Law so that the Veterans Property Tax Exemption would be tied exclusively to the assessed value of their home and property.  Such a regulation seems logical and obvious, but currently the veterans’ exemption is tied unnecessarily and unfairly to the local school tax rate, which fluctuates widely from year to year because it is tied to the diminishing amount of federal and state education aid, which also vary from year to year resulting in a reduced tax exemption for our veterans who forced, therefore, to bear the burden of an unfair proportion of property taxation.  Other property tax exemptions currently in effect in our state are not tied to the school tax, and neither should the Veterans Exemption.

The City Council has passed a resolution (No. 1735) fully endorsing the measure in the State Legislature.  We applaud the action of the Council and we join its members in the endorsement of S. 3872/A. 514.  We specifically ask that our representatives in Albany pass this very appropriate resolution in appreciation and recognition of the invaluable service rendered by this State’s veterans.


SCAM ALERT!

ARC has received the following SCAM ALERT! from the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums:

A number of co-ops have received a notice (see: attached) from an entity calling itself the “Corporate Records Compliance Office” in Albany, stating  that under New York law, corporations must hold annual meetings of shareholders to elect directors and conduct other business. The form requests that co-ops list the names of all officers and directors and mail it back with a check for $120. It says that upon receipt of the money and the completed form, the co-op will be sent a “certificate of minutes of board of directors and shareholders” to file in the corporate minute book.

This notice is a scam.

“There is no reason that a cooperative — or any corporation for that matter — should complete this form or send in any money,” said attorney Marc Luxemburg, president of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums. “The company that is sending out these forms is not affiliated with state government, even though the form appears to be designed to look like an official form.”

In fact, Mr. Luxemburg said, on the bottom of the form is a disclaimer: “This service has not been endorsed by any government agency and this offer is not being made by an agency of the government. This is not a bill.”

THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT ANNUAL MEETING NOTICES BE REGISTERED.


FEMA Funds Do Not Help Co-op Owners

The following excerpt is from a letter written to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator William Fugate, Congressman Eliot Engel and Senator Charles Schumer:

The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums (ARC), which represents many tens of thousands of individual property owners in the Bronx, New York applauds your efforts in aiding the recovery of so many who suffered catastrophic hardship from Hurricane Sandy. Almost all of the homeowners who suffered damages to their homes will benefit from your aid in a time of great need. Unfortunately, the particular nature of housing cooperatives, condominiums and homeowner associations presently prevents our members from benefitting from these relief efforts. We write to urge FEMA to change the way it classifies these homes.

When housing is owned and governed in a common interest community or cooperative form, homeowners join together as a group to share ownership and all its responsibilities. A Board is elected from among the members to manage and maintain the building in which they reside.

How is it different if the roof on a single family home collapses and the roof on a housing cooperative collapses? Both types of homeowners are impacted in the same way but are, under current FEMA policy, treated differently. Under the present system, while individual owners could apply for FEMA grants to restore the interior of their units or their individual homes, the cooperative or association could not request a FEMA grant to put on a new roof, remove debris from the essential roadways in their community, or to replace a boiler or heating system or electrical system destroyed by Tropical Storm Sandy.

Our homeowners are not commercial business enterprises; they are simply a different and growing (1 in 4 homes in the US) type of homeownership and as such, they should be eligible for the same assistance as all other homeowners who suffered damage to their structures from this terrible storm.

We believe that FEMA has misinterpreted the Stafford Act in classifying housing cooperatives, condominiums and homeowners associations as business associations. However, we also believe that FEMA has the authority to correct this misinterpretation.

On behalf of our members and all resident owned multi-family housing developments in our nation, we urge you to provide maximum help in recovery from this devastating storm and from future disasters. Please consider meeting with us to discuss correcting this situation. We look forward to working together with you to resolve our concerns.


Understand the Property Tax Abatement program

The property tax abatement provision for co-ops and condos is now law.  It is probably wise to review the complete text of the legislation, which contains a number of important provisions that Boards and managers should be aware of in regard to the abatement, and also in regard to other real property issues that are also covered in the same legislation.  The text is located on the web at:

http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=printbill&bn=A03354&term=2013

You will note that among the issues delineated in bill is the stipulation that the property tax abatement may be applied only to those properties that serve as the primary residence.

Registration in the S.T.A.R. program may be used as a means of determining eligibility, and while only individuals may register, it may be prudent to alert the shareholders in your building.

The registration form for S.T.A.R. and other exemptions can be found here: Owners Exempt Application

Additional information has been made available from the City of New York:  Cooperative and Condominium Tax Abatement


J-51 Program Should Be Reinstated

New York City’s J-51 Program is a great help to property owners in their efforts to maintain the housing stock of our City.  This incentive program provides owners who make qualifying improvements with certain monies to recover some of the cost of the work.

The Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums (along with the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums) strongly supports the continuation of the program, but CNYC also recommends certain modifications to the program.

Read the CNYC Press Release here:  CNYC J-51 Proposal


Flip Tax for Residential Co-ops Must be Retained

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is proposing a guidance (rule) that would restrict Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks from investing in mortgages in buildings with private transfer (Flip Tax) fees.  The FHFA Rule, if enacted, could:

  • Effectively halt sales in buildings with a Flip Tax
  • Create instability as buyers and sellers would face new difficulties in a housing market where financing may already be scarce
  • Limit transfers because these apartment sales may not be able to secure financing that is Fannie Mae eligible
  • Create inefficiency in the marketplace as buildings whose financing is Fannie Mae eligible may be viewed more favorably than comparable properties

Many of Riverdale’s cooperatives have benefitted from the use of flip tax income for some time.  Doing so helps enable the improvements and capital projects that are necessary for the perpetuity of each property.  The authority and autonomy that each building or its Board of Directors currently has to enact a flip tax based upon the needs and desires of individual cooperators must not be undermined.  The judicious use of flip tax revenue has historically (and effectively) bolstered capital reserve funds, funded building maintenance, allowed for the repair and replacement of building systems and additional building wide improvements – all of which benefit not only the residents but the surrounding neighborhood by elevating property values, as well.

FHFA is may be principally concerned with the private transfer fee covenant when a project developer or their designated third party receives the proceeds of transfer fees, not when a fee goes to improve the operation of an individual building.

There should be no blanket regulation adopted.  The two concepts must be clearly articulated as distinct from one another and co-op owners, co-op boards and their managers need to take note of the impending regulation and inform their representatives in Washington, D.C. that they are opposed to restricting loans to co-ops that use their flip taxes for the benefit of all of their residents.


Ombudsman in Albany for Co-ops and Condos?

What a great idea!  Let’s do something to bridge the information and understanding gap that continues to exist in the minds of so many legislators when they are confronted with the issues that are so important to cooperators and condominium owners.  Read the text of proposed legislation here:  A_7958 Ombudsman

And, since this was brought to the Assembly floor in 2010, why not ask your representatives what happened to the Bill?  (Hint: We do not now have an Ombudsman representing us).


Speaker Quinn Wants Your Building’s Unsold Apartments!

With very little foresight, a flagrant disregard for tens of thousands of co-op property owners and a complete lack of understanding of the philosophy and business laws that underpin the durability of cooperative apartment living, the Speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn, has called for holders of unsold shares to negotiate a price for those apartments with the City, which would then house residents in the units at the City’s discretion!

Quinn, in yet another grab for power, would also have the law that governs housing in New York State repealed, with the now-legally-vested responsibilities relocated to her authority.

Read the report here: Quinn Would Sell Vacant Units to the City!


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