To writer/editor Norman Schreiber, co-op boards engage in “bloodlust psychodrama.” He is the author of what Schreiber describes as a “fun novel,” Out Of Order, about murders in a co-op. It is available on Amazon.
by Norman Schreiber
Awesome and awful is a bill under consideration by the New York City Council.
The Council, that bastion of reform, hopes to transform the co-op sales process, though the effort faces a hard road.
As recently reported here, the pending bill (Intro 188) obviously views co-op boards of directors as evil and discriminatory. The measure would mandate transparency and accountability via 45-day time limits, explanations for turndowns, retention of documents for five years and board member certification that no discrimination occurred in rejecting a shareholder application.
Intro 188 puts the burden of proof on all co-ops to show that they don’t discriminate, instead of proving a pattern of discrimination in those that actually do so. I’m not sure if the bill could work; more likely, it would change the way in which discrimination is covered up.
Still, a better co-op sales choreography is good for everybody.
The co-op admissions process is bloodlust psychodrama. I know: I served on the board for several terms at my previous residence.
I recall when one prospective buyer — a mild, pleasant, retired lawyer — came to meet the board on which I served; he received the full Arizona trooper treatment as the board peppered him with “gotcha” questions.
The idea was to elicit some gasp-worthy answer that revealed a fatal flaw showing how unfit he was to dwell with the angelic likes of us — not because they sensed anything unseemly but simply because this was how we did things. I tired of the silly game.
“Sir,” I asked, “do you have a gruesome ax murder in your past?”
“No,” he replied.
The co-op’s president shot me a look that mingled serious pity for my mental state with the threat that I had better get my affairs in order real soon.
After the lawyer was well moved in, I apologized for my levity.
“Oh no,” he responded. “I found it amusing.”
As he should have.
Still, I confess that my fellow board members, though clumsy, got the big picture right. Hypervigilance Is required.
Each buyer admitted to a co-op will do one of three things — improve, keep stable or worsen the co-op’s finances, property values, community and/or quality of life. While racial, sex, disability and other forms of discrimination are despicable and already illegal, other biases are quite in order. Here are a few.
- People who sue at the dropping of a hint or a raising of the eyebrow;
- Adults, children or pets that make public messes;
- People who make too much noise;
- People who don’t intend to live in the building;
- People planning to rent out rooms, especially to wandering bands of graffiti artists.
I doubt whether we can foresee or forestall all nuisances and corrosions and connivances heading our way. It is the job of co-op boards to wade into the muck and to find red flags and unknown unknowns.
Anything that speeds and clarifies the application process is a boon to all involved. The prospect of moving maddens both seller and buyer. Each is in a rush and resents anything that feels like bureaucratic foot-dragging.
Buyers and sellers need clear instructions about what items the board requires and, at least, an approximate timetable. When should documents be filed; how long it will take for a review of these documents; when can a decision be expected? Building some wiggle room into this timetable (in deference to Murphy’s Law) naturally would be wise and welcome.
Keeping records for five years is a good idea, too. The co-op’s files should be archived in a central, neutral space — not just with the management and not in a shopping bag in the current president’s apartment.
Calm, professional screening protects the co-op from potential risk. It does something else.: The smoother the process, the better the welcome you offer to new co-operators. It’s a great way to say “hi” to your new neighbors.
Tomorrow: Weekly Roundup
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Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022