Sukkahs in Common Areas

With the arrival of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, questions arise about the permissibility and advisability of allowing observant residents to construct sukkahs (outdoor eating facilities) in the common areas of co-ops and condos during the weeklong celebration.

We are not aware of any legal restrictions that would prohibit individuals from erecting a sukkah, but a co-op or a condo may have limitations on the use of common elements in the by-laws.

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Senior Shareholders Get Another Shot at Reverse Mortgage Access

In a development sure to be of interest to New York’s co-op housing community, State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D) of New York’s 81st district announced the passage of a bill during the recently-ended legislative session that would allow cooperative tenant-shareholders 65 years of age and older to apply for reverse mortgages – a type of home equity loan that’s long been available to other types of homeowners, but that until now was not an option for co-ops.

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New Support for Reverse Mortgages for Co-ops

Congressman Bowman recently joined with local legislators in requesting that HUD promulgate regulations to allow senior co-op shareholders to participate in the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program. The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums along with Members of Congress and the Legislature has been advocating for this change for years, but we are hopeful that with a new administration, HUD, the New York State Legislature and the Governor will be willing to revisit this issue. The letter from the legislators can be read in its entirety here.

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City Council District 11 Candidates Talk Co-ops/Condos

With an important special election for our local City Council representative fast-approaching, the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums (ARC) believes it is important to
know how each of the candidates seeking to represent Council District 11 regards several of the important issues confronting co-op boards, co-op shareholders and condo owners.

In its effort to provide its membership and residents of our community with the insight necessary to be informed voters, ARC asked all of the candidates the same questions about co-ops and condos, and the unedited written responses from Eric Dinowitz, Jessica Haller, Daniel Padernacht and Kevin Pazmino are published here, exactly as received. Note that Carleton Berkley and Mino Lora did not respond to numerous requests for their answers.

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Residential Cooperatives May Now Get Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans

The most recent federal Coronavirus stimulus law, finally signed on December 27, 2020, extends the PPP loan program to residential cooperatives.

PPP loans are loans made by banks that are 100% guaranteed by the United States Small Business Administration, with up to 100% of the loan being eligible for forgiveness if the borrower spends an amount equal to the loan proceeds on specific types of expenses.

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Acceptable Noise vs Quiet Enjoyment

Noise complaints are one of the most common occurrences that co-op boards, managing agents and the judiciary are asked to deal with; and they are among the most difficult to resolve. While all tenants have the right to “quiet enjoyment” of their property, what that actually means is subject to interpretation and can vary widely.  It is important to note at the outset of any discussion about noise that the right to quiet enjoyment does not mean every tenant gets to live in complete silence. Read More to learn more about offending noise issues and what you can do about them.

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Co-ops Must Do Their Part for the Census!

Julie Menin, Director, NYC Census 2020 and Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel, NYC Law Department reminds us that, “It is critical that all property managers, building workers, as well as co-op and condo boards, grant access to the vetted, trained, and trusted census door-knockers who are out in the streets right now, attempting to count the 1.6 million households that have not yet responded to the census. . . .”

The Census Bureau’s carefully trained and vetted workers who visit households in person to collect census information from those who have not yet submitted by mail or online at https://my2020census.gov/ — must be allowed to enter buildings.

Regrettably this has not always been the case.  Read more about the problem in an article by Darcey Gertstein in the August 26th issue of The Cooperator.  

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The Scaffold Law and Building Insurance

. . . What’s happening in the city now more than ever due to . . . antiquated laws called Labor Law 240 and 241, also known as the Scaffold Law – is that companies insuring buildings and contractors have come up with broad exclusions and limitations that are designed to protect them from having to defend and indemnify co-ops, condos, and building owners as additional insureds. There are certain exclusions that exist both on the buildings’ policies and on the policies of contractors doing the work in co-ops and condos. This is because the Scaffold Law holds building owners and general contractors liable for any gravity-related injury to a worker, even if the worker is at fault.

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Co-ops May Want to Consider Refinancing Right Now

With COVID-19 infections and deaths rising to terrifying levels across the nation, it’s a consolation to co-op boards to know that one number has fallen to historic lows. With interest rates now around 3%, a growing number of co-op boards are approaching banks seeking to refinance their underlying mortgages. Just published in Habitat magazine is an article entitled, “There Has Never Been a Better Time for Co-ops to Refinance” that addresses this issue.

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Co-ops & Condos Have Responsibility with Regard to their Employees

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the federal agency which enforces certain federal workplace anti-discrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), recently provided employers with guidance to help navigate employee return-to-work issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. The laws, regulations and governmental guidance have been in flux and will continue to adapt to the developing circumstance.

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Virtual Shareholder Meetings

One of the many new challenges facing co-op and condo boards during the time of COVID-19 is the issue of continuing lines of communication and maintaining legal responsibilities usually addressed via public (in person) meetings.  On June 29, 2020 the law firm Armstrong Teasdale published some valuable advice regarding virtual meetings in co-ops and condos in its article entitled:  “Holding a Virtual Shareholder Meeting in New York”

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NY Co-ops Might Still Be Able to Collect Legal Fees

Frustrated after commencing numerous eviction proceedings against a shareholder who repeatedly falls into arrears?  Under the provisions of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, attempting to collect legal fees during eviction proceedings has become difficult if not impossible.  But, there may be a way to deal with nuisance residents who like to play the “catch me if you can” game.

An article published in Habitat magazine explains how co-ops may be able to collect arrears and legal fees.

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Co-ops Supported in Washington

The recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security and the Paycheck Protection Program acts that were designed to provide some financial support to those battling the COVID-19 pandemic did not specifically include co-ops and condos, and so many of our local residents in need were, by default, excluded from the resources they should have been due. The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums, along with other similar organizations, has been steadfast in its mission to correct this wrong.

Many of our elected officials have singly, or in group, accepted the challenge ARC posed and have brought the issue to those in power in the Administration.  

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Elected Officials in D. C. Advocate for Co-ops

Almost immediately upon the passage of the Payroll Protection Program, co-ops and condos were faced with the all-too-familiar problem of ambiguity in legislation.  Were co-ops and condos meant to be included in the PPP or were they not?  Some housing corporations were able to acquire some assistance provided by the program, while most did not.

Over time, our legislative representatives heard from ARC and many others representing co-ops and condos throughout the City of New York asking for clarification and specific inclusion in the government relief plan.

In response to our concerns, many of New York City’s elected officials have appealed to the Administration in Washington D. C. for relief for co-ops and condos.  Their joint letter can be found in its entirety here.

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COVID-19 and New Building Protocols for Co-ops & Condos

As we slowly begin to recover from the COVID-19 menace, boards of directors are faced with the challenge of remodeling the way that residents enjoy their buildings.  We are grateful to the law firm of Armstrong Teasdale for putting together an excellent set of guidelines that boards can use, at their discretion, in order to model new building protocols.  The Armstrong Teasdale publication begins, “As New York begins to transition from a nearly complete lockdown to less stringent rules, each condominium and cooperative Board should consider compiling protocols to preserve good health and order in their buildings”. “Under all circumstances, Boards should comply with law and any Executive Orders in place”. 

“But, every Board should recognize that even if governmental agencies allow certain activities to resume, the Board does not have to allow the activity immediately. Each Board must take the actions they believe best serve their residents within their authority as a Board”.

You can read the entire, comprehensive set of recommended protocols here.

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Virtual Annual Meetings during COVID-19

Recognizing that even as we individually face the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have accepted responsibilities as members of boards of directors that we must continue to fulfill.

Annual Meetings and elections are a regular way of life for co-operatives and condominiums, and the current restrictions on large gatherings of people obviously prohibit adhering to normal protocols.

Some boards are exercising their right to postpone meetings.  Others are venturing into the world of virtual meetings and elections.
A recently published article in Habitat Weekly describes how to hold these functions.

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Buying & Selling Co-ops and Condos during COVID-19

“Among those watching the markets and trying to keep transactions moving while protecting themselves against infection are buyers, sellers, brokers, banks, appraisers, and other parties crucial to the processing of mortgages for co-op and condo units. They’re all navigating a profoundly altered landscape without much of a roadmap”.  Read more in an article published in The Cooperator.

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‘Tis the (COVID-19) Season for Annual Elections

At this moment we all are focused primarily on trying to survive the insidious coronavirus, even as we are aware of our obligations as elected directors of co-operative and condominium residences.

Annual elections to boards of directors are often held in May and June; and hence, questions currently abound regarding what to do about mandated and previously calendared annual meetings and elections in each individual building while we are under the Executive Orders that restrict public gatherings.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the following guidelines may be helpful:

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PPP Update

Once they received information about certain government COVID-19 relief programs, some co-ops and condos were quick to apply for the support that was offered.  Others believed they were not qualified and so they did not apply.  As we have become increasingly aware, our legislatures often fail to recognize co-ops and condos, one way or another…

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COVID-19 Update for Co-ops & Condos as Employers

The New York Governor’s Executive Order 202.16, issued on April 12, 2020, has now made it mandatory (as of 8:00 p.m. on April 15, 2020) for all essential employees who come into direct contact with customers or members of the public to wear “face coverings.” While many have already opted to undertake this precautionary measure, Governor Cuomo has now made it a requirement for certain (“essential”) employees.  Significantly, the employees of cooperatives, condominiums and other multiple dwellings are considered essential

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New OSHA requirements on COVID-19 cases

OSHA has just clarified its reporting requirements on COVID-19 cases. Under the guidance, unless an employer employs workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations, or correctional institutions (i.e., in the case of co-ops and condos), OSHA’s analysis of whether a COVID-19 related illness is work-related is limited to readily available objective evidence. Objective evidence includes,…

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Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) became effective on April 1,2020.

Among other requirements, FFCRA requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide expanded paid leave pursuant to the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and paid sick leave benefits pursuant to the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, in addition to existing paid leave, to those employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 Bronx Realty Advisory Board Agreement with SEIU 32BJ

While the COVID-19 continues to ravage the entire human population, those who are responsible for maintaining building operations have become increasingly concerned about the welfare of their employees, while struggling to deliver expected to services to their residents.  An inextricable part of this conversation is the question of labor relations and the impact any disease-related absences and reductions in operational staff will have on co-ops and condos (read: employers).

The Bronx Realty Advisory Board (BRAB) entered into an agreement with the union on March 27, 2020 that will have direct and immediate impact on all 32BJ employees and the buildings that employ them.  Read the full text of the Memorandum of Agreement here.

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Coronavirus in the Workplace — What Co-op & Condo Boards Need to Know

During these difficult times, we are all concerned about our health and safety.  There are also many issues regarding COVID-19 that co-op and condo boards, as employers, must consider beyond their personal safety and the health of their residents.

How must we respond to an employee who appears ill at work?
Should boards test their employees for the virus?
Can an employee refuse to come to work because a resident is quarantined?
Many legal and contractual questions should be reviewed by all boards of directors and building managers.

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The S.H.I.E.L.D. law

The application packages that co-ops (and to some degree, condos) require from prospective buyers include a great deal of private information.  Last summer, Governor Cuomo signed into law the “Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security” (SHIELD) Act, which requires all businesses and organizations in possession of electronic personal information about any resident of New York State to safeguard that information by March 21, 2020. You should read more about the implications and requirements of this new law.

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New Facade Inspection Rules Take Effect

Major changes go into effect February 21, 2020 with the city’s new Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP) regulations. Co-op and condo boards should get ready for stricter rules, stiffer penalties – and a rise in the cost of the inspections and repairs that must be undertaken every five years in buildings taller than six stories, under a program previously known as Local Law 11.  The City of New York has published rules regarding the qualifications and responsibilities of qualified exterior wall inspectors, as well as the requirements for exterior wall inspections and repairs.

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NYC Property Tax Reform

The New York City Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform’s Preliminary Report recommends moving coops, condominiums and rental buildings with up to 10 units into a new residential class  along with 1-3 family homes. The property tax system would continue to consist of four classes of property: residential, large rentals, utilities, and commercial. For the new proposed residential class, Class 1 properties would be combined with condos and coops, as well as small rentals, furthering the principles of fairness and transparency. The Commission recognizes that coops and condos are broadly similar to Class 1 in terms of residential usage and grouping them together would make it easier to ensure that they receive the same treatment under the property tax system.

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Local Law 11 Changes Will Affect Co-ops and Condos

The city Department of Buildings (DOB) is considering imminent changes to the Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP), also known as Local Law 11, which requires owners of buildings taller than six stories to inspect and repair their facades every five years. If approved, the changes are sure to increase the cost of maintaining building facades, beginning as soon as February 2020. You can become involved in the process.

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ARC Petitions Against Housing Regulation Law

Because of the serious financial upheaval that the HSTPL has foisted upon co-ops and their individual shareholders, the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums has taken the extraordinary step of coordinating a petition effort to bring the urgent need to revise or amend the law to the attention of New York State lawmakers.  While the primary thrust of ARC’s initiative is to show the unified dissatisfaction with the law among co-op boards acting in the name of the buildings they represent,  shareholders and other concerned individuals are welcome to join the effort by signing the petition and ensuring that it arrives in the hands of the Governor and their other elected representatives in Albany before the legislative session begins in January 2020.  

Read and/or print and sign the petition here:

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Albany Still Not Listening

It’s been about four months since the sweeping Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Law (HSTPL) was passed by the New York state legislature and signed by the governor.

Now that sufficient time has passed to fairly judge its impact, we can pointedly highlight several of the shortcomings in the law and earnestly encourage everyone who lives in a co-operative building to closely consider the effect the law is beginning to have on their financial stability and way of life.

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Reducing Greenhouse Emissions in Your NYC Co-op or Condo

Last year the New York City Council passed Local Law 84, also known as the  NYC Benchmarking Law which requires owners of large buildings to annually measure their energy and water consumption in a process called benchmarking. In general, if a property is subject to that law it is subject to the new Greenhouse Emissions Legislation also known as the Building Emissions law or the Climate Mobilization law, which was amended in April 2019. This law (Intro. No 1253) sets emissions intensity limits (metric tons of CO2e per square foot) — with science and technology-oriented language that can be confusing to many.

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New Tenant Protection Law Forgot About Co-op Owners

In June 2019 the Governor Cuomo signed the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Law.  Its stated purpose is to address certain abuses in the rental market, but we believe that the law will potentially, perhaps unintentionally, harm many tenant shareholders.  The new and increased costs, and new prohibitions suggested by the new legislation may ultimately make their apartments unaffordable.

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Does the Warranty of Habitability extend to common areas?

As revealed in a recent article published by Habitat magazine, “the warranty of habitability (§ 235-b of the Real Property Law) applies not only to the premises rented, but to ‘all areas used in connection therewith in common with other tenants.’ It provides that all such areas must be fit for human habitation, and are free from ‘dangerous, hazardous, or detrimental’ conditions.  As the article implies, it may be prudent for boards of directors to carefully re-examine areas such as bicycle rooms, playgrounds, laundry rooms and storage areas.

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Changes in S.T.A.R.

Changes in the S.T.A.R. (School Tax Relief) program which provides eligible homeowners in New York State with relief on their property taxes could bring now you more savings. According to the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, “due to recent changes in the law, beginning this year, the income limit for the Basic S.T.A.R. exemption is now $250,000”.  “If you currently receive the S.T.A.R. exemption, you can choose to register for the S.T.A.R. credit to receive a check instead; you may receive a greater benefit, and your savings will never be less than the S.T.A.R.exemption benefit”. “Due to recent changes in the law, beginning in 2019, the value of the S.T.A.R. credit savings may increase by as much as 2% each year, but the value of the S.T.A.R. exemption savings cannot increase”.

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Hiring Military Service Veterans

Among the duties and responsibilities shouldered by Boards of Directors and building managers is the selection and hiring of new employees.  Often faced with a pool of candidates, the proper choice is critical to the well-being of a building.

Many people may present similar skills and abilities, immediate availability, etc. and one area that can be too often brushed aside is the value of one’s prior military service and the resultant level of maturity and responsibility that should be added to the mix when reviewing applicants.

You should read more about the “The Benefits of Hiring Military Service Members”.

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Maintaining Adequate Reserve Funds

When a newly elected co-op board is suddenly confronted with an exhaustive amount of major renovation and repair that is urgently needed and predecessor board members had not maintained a sufficient Reserve Fund, the new directors can be in a serious quandary about what to do.

Maintaining an “adequate” reserve fund is critical to the fiscal stability of every building.

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2019 Contract Agreement with Local 32BJ

A new contract agreement with SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents most building workers throughout our membership area, has been  reached.  The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums is proud to have been at the bargaining table continuously with the Bronx Realty Advisory Board (BRAB), representing its entire membership as well as the interests of residents throughout our neighborhood and most of the Bronx.  We believe that the agreement was fairly negotiated, and although it will represent considerable cost escalations over the next four years, the elements of the contract reflect the general state of our economy and fall within expected parameters. The contract takes place immediately (effective March 15, 2019) and so it is important that boards of directors and building managers look closely at the exact terms of the settlement to ensure that proper budgeting is in place to meet the new fiscal requirements.  Read more from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement:

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Board Decisions Are Protected Under the Provisions of the Business Judgment Rule (or are they?)

We are all aware of the extensive responsibilities shouldered by Boards as they run the day-to-day affairs of the co-op/condo, and that they therefore must also have broad powers in decision making. Generally, when they make decisions that are in the best interest of the cooperative lessees they represent, Boards of Directors are protected under the guidelines set by the Business Judgment Rule.  But, that may not always be the case.

It has been the opinion of Courts for decades that so long as the board acts for the purposes of the cooperative, within the scope of its legal authority and in good faith, their judgment is usually final and unless a resident challenging the board’s action is able to demonstrate a breach of this duty the judgment cannot be challenged in the courts. It is important to recognize exactly how “breach of duty” may be established, and the Courts have determined that a reasonableness review can require the board to demonstrate that its decision was sound, fair and sensible. And, although deference is most times accorded to board decisions, reasonableness review also (and importantly!) permits courts to evaluate the merits or wisdom of a board’s decision.

Such was the case recently when a board of directors was shown to have failed to act in good faith. 

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New York State Mandates Parking Garage Assessments

A new rule requires parking garage condition assessments to be performed by a qualified professional engineer at least every three years. According to the new rule parking garage owners must retain a qualified professional engineer, experienced in structural evaluation, to conduct an on-site inspection and evaluation of the parking facility. With the first assessment due as soon as next fall, Boards of Directors and building managers have little time to waste in meeting this new mandate.

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Trust Transfers for Shareholders in Co-ops

Shareholders, Directors and building managers often have inquiries as to their options when it comes transferring shares to family members.

First and foremost, when considering transferring one’s shares in the Corporation, shareholders should always seek professional counsel since individual circumstances vary considerably; the process may be an intricate one involving much legal preparation and review; and in almost all cases the Corporation’s consent is required and the Corporation’s attorney will be asked to review the application in order to protect the Corporation’s interests. Further, attorneys categorically remind us that issues of transfer to family members are not simple and do not lend themselves to short summaries. That said, we can attempt to provide some basic information and reminders, which should only serve as groundwork for beginning the personal research that remains every individual’s responsibility:

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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.

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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.

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The Question of Smoking in Co-ops and Condos

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.
BUT
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.”

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The Question of Dogs in Co-ops and Condos

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.

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The Question of Bedbugs in Co-ops and Condos

Co-op apartments are governed by proprietary leases, which allow the residents to occupy the apartment under a typical lease; and New York Real Property Law, Section 235-b requires rental building owners (i.e., those that offer leases) 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.

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

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.

Read the text of the City Council Intro’s, the entire report and ARC’s response.

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Maintaining Your Building’s “Bella Figura”

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”.
Maybe your building’s outside areas deserve more attention. You can learn about “Choosing the Right Plants for Landscaping” for your building; and “Working With Your Landscape Architect”.

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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.

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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.

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

A new law signed into law by the governor on September 12, 2017 and effective January 1, 2018 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.

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New Heating Regulations

Beginning October 1, 2017, pursuant to Local Law 86 of 2017, the regulations regarding providing heat during the nighttime hours have changed. 
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°.

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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.

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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.

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Newly Proposed Legislation Strikes At Autonomy of Co-op Boards

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.

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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).

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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.

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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. 

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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…

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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. 

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Sprinkler Disclosure Law Goes into Effect 12/3/14

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.

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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.

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”.

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32BJ Contract to Expire in March 2015

On 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.  

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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.

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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.

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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

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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. Today, after years of effort, gas lines are finally coming to our area.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Veterans Property Tax Exemption

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

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SCAM ALERT!

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.

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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.

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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:

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Flip Tax for Residential Co-ops Must be Retained

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. But, now 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

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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. 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)

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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.

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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.

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