Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
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Contract Expiration, Lead Paint Compliance, Graffiti Law, NAHC

Published: Autumn 2009

Most of the employees in New York Ciiy cooperatives and condominiums are members of Local32BJ of the Building Service Employees Union. The contract for those members working in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island will expire at midnight on Tuesday, April 20 2010. In buildings with more than six employees, the Superintendent has a contract that doesn’t expire until June 20th. Contracts with Bronx building have autumn 2010 expiration dates.

The Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations Inc. (the RAB) is a membership organization that deals with labor on behalf of its members – both on a day-to-day basis, where it helps members understand the contract and work effectively within its framework – and in negotiating a pattern agreement with the Union next spring. Every RAB member will then have the opportunity to sign on to that contract. Concerns of cooperatives and condominiums are well represented on the RAB negotiating team. If your cooperative or condominium has service employees –whether they are union members or not – membership in the RAB will be beneficial . Contact the RAB by calling 212 889-4100.

The present contract was negotiated in 2006. For the first time, it covered four years instead of three. This contract provides fair wages and good benefits to the service employees working in residential building of New York City, including excellent educational opportunities through the Union’s Thomas Shortman Training Fund.

Historically, contracts have been successfully negotiated without major problems, but in 1976, 1979 and 1991 negotiations broke down and the Union called it members out on strike, returning to the bargaining table only several days later. We must prepare our buildings and their residents to cope with such a possibility again in April, even as we work to ensure a peaceful and successful contract negotiation.

To help members prepare to operate their buildings if a strike occurs, in January, CNYC will distribute its booklet entitles “In the Event of a Strike…. “ and on the evening of February 9th, RAB President James Berg will speak at a workshop on to help with preparedness and to answer your questions (see page 14) .

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with protecting the American public from environmental hazards. It has the power to promulgate rules and regulations to implement federal legislation.
Lead poising is a serious affliction that is particularly harmful to very small children. For this reason, the use of lead based paint was banned in the USA in 1978. Prior to that time, lead based paint, though expensive, was known to be long lasting, so it was often used in apartment buildings. Today, many building built prior to 1978 may contain lead based paint, usually in coats below the visible surface.

To protect against the risk of disturbing lead dust and chips when common renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition are performed, the EPA issued in April, 2008 its Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule to address lead-based paint hazards created by common renovation activities in homes, child care centers, and schools built before 1978.

It required the use of lead-safe practices when surfaces that might contain lead based paint are disturbed, and required that contractors, building staff, painters, and other professionals who were likely to be disturbing lead based paint in the course of their work become trained and licensed by EPA standards. Time was provided for them to acquire this training, but effective

April 22, 2010, any building staff or contractors who perform renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and schools built prior to 1978 MUST be lead-certified by EPA.

Every structure built prior to 1978, when the use of lead based paint was banned, is assumed to contain lead based paint unless it has been properly inspected and is certified to be lead-free. The EPA website specifically notes that window replacement must be done by lead-certified contractors. The EPA also proposed to address renovations on the exteriors of public and commercial buildings .

In August, 2009 the EPA announced its intention to establish new rules to expand coverage and strengthen requirements of the 2008 RRP rule, which will take full effect on April 22, 2010. These rule makings will be available for public comment. The agreement was part of a settlement of litigation by the Sierra Club, the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning, and other public interest petitioners.

CNYC will monitor the development of these rules to ensure that they are reasonable and workable for our members.

To learn more about the EPA lead paint requirements, visit the EPA website at, where you can download the EPA pamphlet Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools. If your pre-1978 cooperative or condominium undertakes repairs that disturb lead paint in public areas, this pamphlet must be distributed to all residents that may be affected by the work, and appropriate professionals using lead-safe practices must perform the work.

If building staff in your pre 1978 building generally perform repairs that disturb painted surfaces, several months still remain during which they can become certified by EPA to do this work once the April 22, 2010 deadline is passed. Members of Local 32BJ can take the Lead Safe Practices Course at the Thomas Shortman Training Program (see page 9).

New York City has a little known and little utilized Graffiti Removal Service. In the past owners of buildings defaced by graffiti had to request its services. On October 7, 2009, Mayor Bloomerg signed into law Intro 1042-A, which essentially reverses past procedure and actively brings the City’s free graffiti removal service to affected buildings.

The City considers graffiti a nuisance. Accordingly this legislation authorizes the City to send notices to buildings where graffiti appear, indicating that unless the building responds within 35 days of the date of the notice the City’s Graffiti Removal Service will remove the graffiti. The notice is to clearly describe the location of the ‘nuisance’, and the City is to make every attempt to be sure that this notice gets to the proper address.

Upon receiving this notice, your board has four options:

  • If you do nothing, the City will eventually come to remove the graffiti.
  • If you reply that you will take responsibility for removing the graffiti, you must do so within the 35 days from the date of the notice.
  • If you wish to remove the graffiti yourself, you can request an extension of 15 days beyond the 35 days from the date of the notice to do so.
  • If you reply that these are not nuisance graffiti but a decoration that you want on your building, you thus create a record that should protect you from further problems. (Note that this response gives you the opportunity to remove the graffiti at a later date).

There is also provision in the legislation to cover the eventually of miscommunication or misdirection of notices. Quite simply, if the City’s removal team comes to the building but is told that the building did not know they were coming or does not want their services, they will go away without touching the graffiti.

The National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) has long been the voice in Washington, D.C. defending the needs and interests of housing cooperatives. Many CNYC members support NAHC and its Cooperative Action Fund as a volunteer addition to their CNYC membership dues. Condominium members of CNYC are, of course, welcome to support NAHC with their membership.

In 2006, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney passed legislation enabling veterans to use their low cost loan benefits to purchase homes in cooperatives; now, with the help of NAHC, she is working to improve the regulations imposed by the Veterans Administration to make sure that this opportunity will be permanently available to veterans. In 2007, Congressman Charles Rangel amended the 80/20 Provisions of Section 216 of the Internal Revenue Code. In 2009, NAHC provides all families in all its member buildings with no cost prescription drug cards, honored by thousands of participating pharmacies nationwide. Whenever the card actually brings a best priced purchase, NAHC receives a small stipend.

NAHC recently held its Annual Conference in San Francisco. Next year, from September 25th through the 29th, it will hold its 50th Annual Housing Conference in New Orleans. For additional information, visit the NAHC website at or call NAHC at 202-737-0907.


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