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29 Jul 2016

Augmented reality games are here, and if Pokémon Go’s popularity persists there soon may be facing a deluge of similar games.  Since the release of Pokémon Go, game participants have swamped public areas looking to “catch em all.”  Any seasoned New Yorker knows to look out for “phone zombies” on the sidewalks, and even come to expect it, but what about in private spaces, like your condo or coop building?

In addition to general trespass and privacy concerns, there are some real safety issues. Pokézombies have been wandering into off-limits properties and onto areas that can be dangerous when you’re distracted by your latest capture (a rooftop for instance).  For trespassing game players, it is easy enough to just kick them out of your building, but what if the user is a resident and otherwise has a right to be in the building?

Be Careful: Watch Your Step

If this is a real independent concern that is not already categorically addressed by other obvious rules or limitations (i.e. no running near the pool), management could distribute a notice that the building asks the game not be played in the building, especially in certain open, higher risk areas.

If the game is perceived as a large risk, it may be advisable to ask your building’s insurance carrier in writing if it feels a written warning should be sent to the building’s tenants.  Many existing rules can likely be utilized to abate the chaos caused by a growing swarm of Pokézombies in your building.  Noise restrictions can be employed when kids (or even adults) are wandering the halls, and restricting access to certain common areas like roofs and gyms can be enforced against underage tenants or during nights/evenings. Some buildings incorporate language into their bylaws restricting loitering in common rooms and interfering with staff duties.

That said, this may be a case of “easier said than done.”  If you don’t catch a gamer red-handed, how do you enforce these rules?  It’s too early to know the ultimate effect of these augmented reality games on society and public safety, but for the time being, encouraging caution can’t hurt.

22 Jul 2016
Handling Rejection

The Co-op application process comes with a lot of paperwork and even more questions. Being approved for a mortgage loan is hardly the first barrier to entry. Co-ops can throw hurdle after hurdle to the point that you may feel discouraged from continuing, and if you receive a rejection, you may think you’ve reached the end of the line.  In most cases, you’d be right.  However, there are a few instances in which tenacity may pay off.  These cases are few and far between, but if your heart is set on a property you may benefit from a little persistence.

In some cases, appealing an initial rejection may be viable.  Though, before you attempt an appeal, it may be beneficial to know the rationale behind the Co-op board’s initial rejection. That said, the board is in no way obligated to provide this information, so approach them with courtesy.  Delicacy is needed here, or you run the risk of further alienating a group already not inclined to grant you favors. Be sure to review your application package for weakness or inaccuracies, and if an interview was part of the process (as it almost always is), try to remember the topics discussed that may hint at the reason for your rejection.

Once you’re ready to resubmit or appeal your application, don’t ask permission – just do it.  Here, a lawyer may be helpful, as a letter from a lawyer to the board and managing agent will probably carry more weight than one from you or your broker.  If your finances were the problem, one option is to offer up an advance on property taxes and maintenance fees to the building, as a show of good faith on your part.

Even if your appeal is flatly rejected, don’t despair.  In a city where real estate certainly is not suffering a shortage, there are many buildings to choose from.

15 Jul 2016
Role of the President

Each Coop board has distinct roles which allow for vital operations to continue.  At the top of the list is the board president.  Naturally, duties vary from board to board.  However, there are some common duties that are universal for most board presidents.

The first priority for a board president is to carry out his/her duties in accordance with state law and the governing documents of the co-op or condo association. A president is also responsible for enforcing the rules for residents, and doing so uniformly and fairly, including obeying the same rules themselves.

A president must also communicate with all related parties, openly and often.  To ensure that the co-op is operating properly, the president must consult with the accountant, managing agent, contractors, and attorneys so that he or she is informed and understands what the daily needs of the building are. A good president also ensures open communication with the other directors and shareholders not only during monthly board meetings, but between them as well. The president must know what is happening in the building, keep residents informed and have a sense of the their concerns.

Frequently, the president is called upon to make quick, yet educated, decisions on behalf of the board.  When a crisis strikes, the president must swiftly act to oversee the emergency response, and consult with professionals on the scene. As the building leader, the president will be looked to for leadership and answers.

Other presidential responsibilities include ensuring actions of the board are legally carried out, acting as the board’s agent in supervising building staff, approving expense reimbursements, speaking for the building community and assuming executive responsibilities to manage the building. He or she must ensure that control is maintained and that the board’s business is discussed and completed efficiently.

08 Jul 2016
Elevator Maintenance

If you’ve ever lived in a “walk up” apartment building, you’ll never take an elevator for granted again. More than simple convenience, elevators also accommodate residents with disabilities or who are otherwise unable to climb stairs, and facilitate bulky or heavy deliveries.

The typical life span of an elevator is about 25 years, and much like any other heavily-used machine, preventive maintenance is imperative. Even if a building owner is diligent with elevator maintenance protocols, there may come a time when the equipment becomes unreliable and is rendered unusable for a period of time. Any modification to an existing system is characterized as a modernization, which is further categorized as either “partial” or “full.” In contrast to a modernization, the installation of new rails results in the project being defined as “new construction,” the same as if a new elevator is installed from the ground up.

Since it’s not a question of “if” an elevator will need maintenance, but “when” it will require service, it is always best to be proactive instead reactive. While this includes yearly inspections by certified professionals, when the time comes to make a change, the city gets involved.

The Department of Buildings’ Elevator Division oversees the use and operation of all New York City’s elevators, escalators, amusement rides and other related devices and enforces the New York City Building Code and standards established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), with some modifications. The elevator company must file for a permit detailing the scope of work, code references for each item and layout drawings of the project. These submissions are reviewed and if acceptable, a permit for the work is issued. At the end of the project, a complete safety test and inspection is performed by the DOB in conjunction with the elevator company to ensure all work was performed as listed in the permit and the elevator meets all code requirements.  The DOB requires notification of 10 calendar days prior to performing the test by filing a ELV36 Elevator/ Escalator Test Notification Form. If defects are discovered, the building owner has 45 days to correct the problem, which will either involve modernization or replacement.  Either way, your elevator cannot be put back into service until the problem is fixed.

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