Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums

Publication Date: April 1998

CO-OP/CONDO PART IN HOUSING COURT: IT'S WORKING IN QUEENS The separate Housing Court Resolution Part that hears cases involving cooperatives and condominiums is up and running in four boroughs. In Queens, where the new courthouse provides commodious sites conducive to discussion and problem-solving, Judge Ernest Cavallo has had an impressive record of bringing cases to a resolution in the pilot weeks of the special part.

Judge Cavallo addressed Queens Borough President Claire Shulman's Co-op and Condo Task Force on February 24th, enthusiastically describing the start-up of the new Part in his borough. Reporting that co-op and condo cases consume approximately half of his case load, Judge Cavallo told how he and his law secretaries have had to master nuances of co-op and condo law, with lawyers helping them make the new system work. Judge Cavallo hears about 40 cases a day, resolving well over 90% in his part. If the cases have to be sent to trial, Judge Cavallo is fortunate to have two colleagues in trial parts who are also well versed in co-op and condo issues. Generally, his cases can go directly to trial on the same day that they have come before him.

In the past, housing court cases were rarely tried on the day that they first appeared on the court calendar. Instead, at this appearance the case would be listed for a trial several weeks later. Then, with postponements and other delays, it could take months before the case was finally heard and resolved.

Some attorneys have objected to the new system because they must assemble all witnesses ready to appear if the case is sent right to trial.

Judge Cavallo has also made regular and successful use of referrals to the free mediation service linked to the Housing Court to help resolve co-op and condo cases.

Reports from Brooklyn and Manhattan show more snags as the Separate Part is inaugurated. There, the more crowded conditions of the court buildings hamper those small, productive discussions that would enhance the ability of the Resolution Part to resolve cases effectively. Furthermore, attorneys are not always using the color-coding system that routes co--op and condo cases to the Co-op/Condo Part. Appropriately enough, GREEN (CNYC's trademark color) is the color chosen by the Court System to indicate co--op and condo cases. Please remind your counsel to use the appropriate color-coding when bringing a case for your cooperative or condominium in Housing Court.

The enthusiasm and good will with which Judge Cavallo approaches this new assignment is most impressive. He concluded his presentation by pointing out that the Separate Co-op/Condo Part will be able to function even in his absence. Because it is a Resolution Part, Judge Cavallo's law secretaries are able to carry on the work of the Separate Part when he is out sick or on vacation.

CNYC, along with and three sister organizations, the Coordinating Council of Cooperatives the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives and the H.D.F.C. Coalition, has long advocated a Separate Part in Housing Court for Co--op and Condo Issues. In 1996, the City Council passed a law supporting this proposal. In the summer of 1997, Chief Judge Judith Kaye presented a proposal for sweeping reform of the court system designed to streamline the system and to take advantage of technology. A constitutional amendment will be required to implement the reform program, but several pilot programs, including the Separate Co--op/Condo Resolution Part, have been implemented as pilot projects.

CNYC is currently seeking State legislation to specifically mandate the continuation of the Separate Part in Housing Court for Issues Involving Cooperatives and Condominiums, and to establish a Trial Part in addition to the Resolution Part.

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