Co-op, Condo Questions Addressed At Forum
On Sunday, April 18, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan and City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer held a co-op and condo forum at Sunnyside Reformed Church, gathering a panel to answer questions from Queens residents relating to various housing and dwelling issues.
Nolan spoke about the importance of multiple dwelling issues in New York City and educating the public on these issues by having an expert panel provide clarity with laws, rules and regulations within co-ops and condos, answer the public’s questions and give Queens residents proper advice.
The panel members were Ira Greenberg, Esq., president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce; Rita Lowery, broker of Welcome Home Realty, and Carol Stephens, Assistant State Attorney General with the Real Estate Finance Bureau. The floor immediately opened to have Queens residents ask real estate questions.
The first question asked was from a woman regarding landlords who illegally charged residents a higher rental rate. Stephens commented that if a landlord overcharges rent, then there is a strong possibility that there would be a high percentage of owner occupancy that banks require in connection with FHA financing. Due to the complexities of FHA financing and policies, there is not much one can do, other than to see if he or she can change owner occupancy, Stephens said.
A man who owns a one-bedroom co-op on Woodside Avenue, asked how to correct the owner occupancy issue of his interest rates, which were falling due to the owner occupancy rate being denied by Wells Fargo and Freddie Mac regulations. Nolan said that she could help direct letters that he had addressed to U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer to the appropriate parties that could help answer his questions of obtaining correct policy information. Nolan said she would get back to him with an answer.
Another gentleman from the crowd asked how a co-op board could force a sponsor unit to sell apartments which they are renting. Stephens said that he should look at the requirements and amendments made in the offering plan to find out if the sponsor disclosed and reserved the right to rent. If they didn’t disclose the right to rent, then there could be a basis to tell the sponsor to sell. The same gentleman asked the panel what to do if the conduct of residents in a dwelling was not appropriate for the building. Nolan said that if she knew the examples, she could look into building codes to see what is prohibited and would need addresses of these dwellings to help with her research.
John Jacobs, a co-op owner at Sunnyside Towers, expressed concern about the development and extension of the Long Island Rail Road, also known as the East Side Access Project, near where he resides. Jacobs wanted to know if the project was developing a sound barrier or a way to help abate noise close to Sunnyside Towers. Van Bramer responded that although there is no way to halt the project, there are ways to mitigate the noise by monitoring it. Van Bramer recalled one particular circumstance, where he reported that there was no required sound testing done on a particular day of work. He took action towards this concern. Nolan said that in the near future a press conference would be held on the project and would address these concerns. Nolan also said that if there are continued noise complaints, anyone could call 311 to report them and have the appropriate personnel visit the site.
One woman in the audience asked what difference was there between a sponsor and an investor. Stephens answered that the investor does not have to make such a comprehensive disclosure as the sponsor does, but if an investor is purchasing blocks for rent, then the new owner has to file new amendments in the offering plan on the terms of sales.
One man asked when a sponsor is supposed to give up control to a building. According to this person, the sponsor runs his building’s board and management company. Also, he cannot get support from shareholders and people who have been on his board since 1986. Stephens answered that his answer is based on the offering plan and it is unusal for any sponsor to be so long on the board. In addition, Stephens said that he should get some expert advice and see if the shareholder needs have been properly met. Stephens also said the individual should look into any of the board’s records and see if they are not meeting shareholder needs.
One gentleman spoke after him, first thanking Nolan for having the forum and for its being very informative. The audience applauded and another gentleman spoke about his building and how he wanted a memorial plaque with a particular design to be installed on a wall of his building. Although the board approved the idea of a memorial plaque, they did not approve of its design and prohibited the sign from being installed. Greenberg suggested that he see what the other shareholders felt about the plaque and to reiterate its significance. Nolan commented that other designs could be looked into that his board could approve, if the design was better packaged for presentation.
Several general questions about proxies were addressed by the panel. At the end of the forum, the audience applauded Nolan, Van Bramer, Lowery and Stephens for helping many Queens residents to have their co-op and condo questions answered.