Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
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Legislative Issues

Publication date: Autumn 1997


The New York State Unified Court System has introduced sweeping modifications to the Housing Court in an effort to eliminate delays and overcrowding, help litigants better understand their responsibilities and present their cases, and provide judges with staffing and the backup that they need to manage their enormous case loads.

A cogent and insightful report by Chief Judge Judith Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lipmann, aptly titled "Breaking New Ground", presents a multi-faceted program for modernizing and streamlining the housing court, and reports upon many initiatives already being implemented.

Long-term, the Unified Court System has proposed a constitutional amendment to restructure the State's trial court system, reducing the current complex nine-level system to two tiers of trial courts -- a Supreme Court with unlimited jurisdiction and a District Court with limited jurisdiction. The Constitutional amendment elevates the Housing Court from its present administrative level by establishing a Housing Division within the New York City District Court, on equal footing with the civil and criminal divisions.

Meanwhile, measures currently being implemented bring to the court system the power of the computer to schedule cases and quickly verify the status of building violations, to introduce mediation as an alternative conflict resolution resource, to provide child care facilities, and to engage vitally needed additional judges and staff. Included is a pilot program of a separate housing court part to hear cases relating to cooperatives and condominiums, which is scheduled to become operational in December 1997.

The discussion of this separate part reflects a clear, practical understanding of the issue:

Pilot Cooperative/Condominium Resolution Part
In recent years, the number of Housing Court cases involving resident-owners and cooperative/condominium boards has increased. These matters have serious implications both for the resident and for the cooperative or condominium, which must rely on maintenance and common charges to operate their buildings. To ensure prompt resolution of these matters and the development of procedures appropriate for this case type, a pilot Cooperative/Condominium Resolution Part will open citywide in December 1997.
The part will promote expeditious resolution of both nonpayment and holdover proceedings involving cooperatives and condominiums. As with all other Resolution Parts, the Court will work with the parties to formulate a workable settlement and, where settlement is not possible, assign the case promptly to a Trial Ready Part for trial on a date certain.

CNYC has worked for several years for a separate part in the housing court where the sitting judge will be hearing only cases involving cooperatives and condominiums and their residents. Working in concert with the Coordinating Council of Cooperatives, the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives and the HDFC Coalition, we presented a white paper explaining the need for this Separate Part, arguing that inability to collect maintenance or carrying charges constitutes the greatest threat to the continued viability of cooperatively owned housing. .

Together, our four organizations testified at hearings of the City Council's Committee on Housing and Buildings. The City Council subsequently passed a bill advocating a Separate Part. Together, at the invitation of the Housing Court, we presented a program for the judges describing the diversity of rules, bylaws and responsibilities in the many different kinds of housing cooperatives found in this city. Together we researched the volume of cases in housing court involving cooperatives and condominiums. Together we appeared at a hearing convened last spring by Assemblyman Scott Stringer's Committee on the Housing Court. And together we acknowledge the excellent program of reform now being implemented in the courts.

Amendments to the Constitution of the State of New York must be approved by two legislative sessions and then ratified by a vote of the people of New York State. CNYC will keep its members advised of the progress of this amendment.


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