Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
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CNYC MEETINGS - Annual Meeting, Evening Class Highlights

Published: Spring 2014

The Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums held its annual meeting on April 23, 2014. Keynote speaker Howard Rothschild, president of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (the RAB) provided detains on the newly negotiated contract with building service employees in Local 32BJ (see pages 1 and 4). CNYC Board members provided updates on a variety of issues important to cooperatives and condominiums, including:

  • A court decision that challenges the use of 'grandfathering' as a means of bringing about gradual change to building policies.
  • Modifications to the property tax abatement program and the ongoing crusade for tax fairness by the Action Committee for Reasonable Real Estate Taxes (see page 4).
  • A lawsuit by renters challenging the constitutionality of the present property tax system on the grounds that it discriminates against renters.
  • Guidance on detecting corruption, (see Board Vigilance in next column).
  • Resiliency and preparedness advice for buildings and residents (see page 10).
  • The Business Judgment Rule.
  • Strategies to keep housing affordable.

An election followed for six Executive Board seats, which were filled by Gregory Carlson, Mary Fischer, Marc Luxemburg, Ted Procas, Stuart Saft and Martha Sickles. Ms. Sickles is the one new board member. She serves on the board of a condominium in Manhattan and is an urban planner and building energy analyst.

The CNYC Executive Board met subsequently and elected the following officers.

Chair - Stuart Saft
President - Marc Luxemburg
Vice President - Arthur Weinstein
Treasurer - Greg Carlson
Secretary - Mary Ann Rothman

Throughout the year, CNYC holds evening meetings on a variety of topics. Many are free to members and subscribers. Pages 12 and 13 lists events that will take place in the coming months. The CNYC website will provide updates as additional events are announced. Following are highlights of some recent classes:

New instances of fraud perpetrated against cooperatives and condominiums have recently surfaced. To help members improve their ability to protect their buildings against such problems and to recognize them if they should occur, forensic accountant Mindy Eisenberg Stark presented Detecting & Preventing Fraud & Kickbacks. She defined fraud as an intentional deception resulting in injury to another. Previously, the type of fraud most generally seen was 'off-the-books' fraud, where bids were rigged or kickbacks were given. These are sometimes dismissed as 'victimless crimes' but that is inaccurate, as either can easily affect the cost and the quality of the work in question. The recent incidents are 'on-thebooks' fraud, where funds were transferred from client accounts and records were falsified to cover the fraud.

Procedures to establish to avoid such problems include ethics manuals (for property managers and for boards), and emphasis on disclosing any relationships with vendors, etc. Boards should make certain their building has insurance coverage for all eventualities, and should require that management hold its funds in a separate account. Only specific recurring payments (mortgage, phone bill, utility bills, elevator contract, etc.) should be made without authorization of the Treasurer, who reviews each bill and gets answers to any questions before OK-ing them for payment. Checks should be made out and mailed directly to vendors. Banks should send monthly statements to the treasurer as well as to management, and the Treasurer should review each statement when received. Sealed bids should be required for all major contracts. Reserves should be accessible only to board members (with 2 signatures always required). And no exceptions should ever be made in the established policies.

These are just a few of the many points raised and explained in this enlightening class, which will be offered at CNYC's 34th annual housing conference on Sunday, November 16th.

Architect Eric Cohen used slides to illustrate his theme that accessible design can be attractive as well as utilitarian. He showed ways that building entrances and lobbies can be redesigned to meet the needs of wheelchair bound residents (lifts and ramps, of course, but never eyesores!), or of those whose eyesight is imperfect (lighting, color choices for carpeting or trip on steps, banisters and railings) and he provided thoughtful and creative answers to participants' questions.

New York is a very film-friendly town. On any given day there are movies and TV, commercials and magazine stills being shot in many boroughs. There is disruption, of course, but the agents and crews all want to be able to come back to a good location, so they do their very best to be courteous at all times and to leave the site restored to its original condition. Isabelle Wedemeyer moderated a panel of three experts who deal with different aspects of scouting and using locations. They spoke frankly of the problems that can arise – and of how hard they work to smooth these out. They answered questions – generally about fees. Ms. Wedemeyer has been invited to present this class again at CNYC's 34th annual housing Conference on Sunday, November 16th at Baruch College.

The Workshop for Building Treasurers never has a fixed agenda. It is an opportunity for treasurers to ask the questions that are troubling them, to learn how other treasurers may have addressed a particular problem, and to receive guidance from Rick Montanye, experienced co-op/condo accountant. CNYC offers this class two or three times a year. It is always well attended and it is different every time. The next session will be on October 9th (see page 12).


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