After reading an article in the New York Times regarding the pitfalls of life in sky high towers, “The Downside to Life in a Supertall Tower: Leaks, Creaks, Breaks”, I was reminded of how widespread the problems of ownership can be in NYC coops and condos; from the obscene rich to the common folks like myself, we have all suffered the slings and arrows of suffering through rules and mandates created by others, with little control over our own destiny.
Such is the case with many coop boards’ unilateral decisions affecting all who reside in these buildings. Without the need to belabor the ongoing issues of life in many pre-war buildings in New York City, the article regarding life today in this luxury condo clearly articulates the broad range of coop/condo woes.
The article also brought to mind one of my clients from some years ago that I dealt with, who resides in this spectacular skyscraper. When I reflect on this encounter, years later, I’m reminded of the demeanor, the sense of entitlement, the absolute chutzpah, of this Madame who would not budge so much as a nickel in her demands to sell her condo at a profit of nearly 3 million dollars only a few months after purchasing. I should add that the apartment was on a floor above the 50th at 432 Park Avenue, with views as one can imagine, to die for, as they say.
The major drawback of this apartment, which I realized upon entering, was that in its empty un-staged self, it was just another series of large boxes with lots of windows, closets, and amazing views. The owner refused to agree to our suggestion of staging, which would have at least created more interest and added a more human setting; to at least give the impression that people actually lived there. The building, was overly “amenitized”, a word I’ve just invented to indicate that it had all the amenities imaginable: an in-house masseuse, parlors for all sexes, library, movie theatre, banquet rooms, and on and on.
She remained adamant in her desire to sell at a price high even for this lofty tower, and as a result, we were unable to offer our services. Even in a company with the name of Sotheby’s, there are limits to our magical powers. I stopped following her apartment’s updates on our website, but as of last year, it still remained unsold. I am merely using this person as an example of the problems that even the very wealthy have fallen victim to.
And now it appears that these rich and famous folks who purchased at 432 Park, are singing songs of sorrow, adding to an unusually stressful year. From excessive swaying on windy days to metal clanging in the night, the design flaws that have reared their ugly head are too numerous to detail, and have caused great hardship for those who have battened down the hatches and stayed on board. The reality is that the vast majority of owners do not call 432 Park their primary residence, and even for the wealthy, the cost of ownership has become staggering.
Without the need to evoke sympathy for these uber rich shareholders, there are stories in other condos and coops in NYC that though on a smaller scale, illustrate almost the same loss of stability and control.
Last year, on January 1, 2020, I was hit with an assessment on my coop apartment that even for those of us familiar with building increases, was breathtaking. The commercial tenant, whose lease expired last year, chose not to renew, resulting in astronomical increases on the number of shares designated to each apartment. When I mentioned the increase to several people in my office, and for those of us who deal in high-end real estate, even jaded real estate professionals were astounded.
When I moan about the situation, people ask me what I consider to be my options. My response is that I have none! Of course, I could put my apartment on the market for sale and suffer the loss in a downtrodden and devastated market, as well as hefty monthly charges.
As I mentioned before, I’m not looking for sympathy, I simply want to point out that in NYC, due to restrictions and mandates by coop boards, we have very little in the way of a ‘voice’, and that is in spite of the fact that many of us become members of the board. It seems to be the last form of discrimination deemed to be ‘acceptable’. This applies as well when rejecting potential shareholders based not solely on their financial assets.
In the case of my building, with problems mounting because of its age, tax laws, and more, there are certain variables that are out of our my, or any owner’s control. My coop was built in 1930, and like all those built (or born) in that year, there are serious infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. One would think that there might have been more foresight in the previous decisions not to raise maintenance, with the ever-looming knowledge that repairs would become mandatory.
And so, after a year of contemplating my future, while trying to remain safe, and not obsessing over maintenance and assessment increases, I can only hope that New York will return to the city we once knew and loved, and that there is life after Covid.
Eva Peron (channeled through the voice of Madonna) comes to mind; so I’ll end with some insightful words:
‘don’t cry for me fellow readers,
the truth is, I always loved New York,
all through its wild days, and glam existence,
I’ll keep my promise to stay resilient’.
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